Drew Dempster is the owner of the Great British Bass Lounge, formerly known simply as the Manchester Bass Lounge. The GBBL boasts a vast range of basses, making it a must-visit for readers of this magazine. Committed to providing and stocking high-end basses, Drew is a huge fan of British handmade instruments, as he tells us over a couple of cups of his excellent coffee…
I wanted to know where Drew’s inspiration for the GBBL and his overall passion for basses came from. “I started playing bass back in the early 1980s: I started out with a punk band in Bradford called New England,” he recalls. “I then qualified as an architect and stopped playing for 23 years. On a whim around five years ago, I felt the urge to buy a bass guitar. I found I couldn’t stop picking them up for my collection, and ended up buying around 30. Suddenly I realised that I’d acquired enough to open a shop…”
He adds: “I’d been looking for a way to get out of my previous job, and so I thought, why not? This lot could be my stock. I started with pre-owned basses, simply due to the lack of second-hand basses in this part of the world, but shortly afterwards I was approached by Overwater to be a dealer for their basses in the north-west – and it just grew from there.”
Thanks to Drew’s passion for this country’s bass makers, the GBBL’s current goal is to provide a largely – but not exclusively – British stock of hand-built, high-quality instruments, as in his opinion the workmanship and quality of these basses is up there with the best. In addition, it’s a real buzz for Drew to provide newer players with the experience of playing whatever bass they fancy without the pressure of being rushed. “One of the highs about doing this,” he tells us, “is that you get the young kid that comes here with his dad and is looking for an improvement on his first bass. You get the chance to share your knowledge about the various basses in stock, give him that opportunity to play them, and see the reaction.” On the other side of the coin, Drew continues: “There are moments when a person with way more experience and knowledge than me comes into the Lounge, and they just want me to shut up so they can play.”
Are certain instruments a struggle to part with, I wonder? Drew chuckles and replies, “Yes, one guy came in to buy a particular bass but left with a Warwick Jack Bruce model. I’ve seen it since and I really regret selling him it now. I still ask the guy for it back.”
What are the long-term goals for the Great British Bass Lounge? Drew is asked this question a lot, but he claims that he still can’t come up with a perfect answer. “I don’t really know where it’s going, and that’s exciting,” he says. “I’m at full capacity for stock in the Lounge, but I do have ideas about extending. I would have to do it right, though. Anyway, doing this at the moment is something I really enjoy. It’s more passion-driven than anything else. I don’t view it as a job, although it certainly is sometimes when I’m doing 80 hours a week of paperwork. The face-to-face conversations I have about basses are what make me do it.”
Info: www.greatbritishbasslounge.com. Tel: 07837 011 889 or 0161 799 9002. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.