Strange Instrument #17 – Manson Lapsteel Bass (John Paul Jones – Them Crooked Vultures)

About 2 or 3 weeks ago, fellow blogger Bertram from the Guitarz blog (dedicated to the weirdest guitars ever) “stole” some content from Muzicosphere, in a friendly way obviously, and with a backlink. That was from the Diego Stocco’s Bassoforte, and he published it on Guitarz. Now that’s my turn to steal a bit of their content to tell you about the Strange Instrument #17 which is the Lapsteel Bass made by Manson (the very same who makes guitars for Matthew Bellamy such as the “Casinocaster”). This post couldn’t more relevant since I am in a slide mood for 2 weeks now.

Manson Lapaphone - Lapsteel Bass John Paul Jones

Unlike Bertram, I do love Them Crooked Vultures music a lot, so I am very pleased to finally make a blog post featuring some bits of the Josh Homme & Dave Grohl‘s band in which legendary John Paul Jones from Led Zeppelin is playing bass. And I am glad to see that he also plays this wonderfully weird instrument.

When I first read the title of the post on Guitarz, I thought that it was about some kind of bass specially made for slide (Mark Sandman from Morphine would certainly have loved such an instrument). But actually it looks more like an 8 strings lapsteel with a long scale length which qualifies it as a baritone lapsteel. Its name is the Manson  Lapaphone. This instrument is made to be played standing which is convenient (and much more rock’n’roll style) I think considering the genre of music delivered by Them Crooked Vultures.

The Lapaphone features a midi screen controller allowing the musician to control any kind of midi device. I didn’t find any information about the pickup used on this lapsteel but it also has an additional single coil Fernandes Sustainer pickup.  This one is attached further on the fretboard which is a position that Cole Clarke often uses on some of his lap-steels. I guess this combination is a killer configuration for the noisy side of Them Crooked Vultures.

To make this lapsteel even more perfect, it has a Hipshot Trilogy bridge that allows to easily and quickly switch tunings among 3 possible presets. I guess this is necessary as I don’t think that there are 3 copies of this Manson Lapaphone. In an interview, John Paul Jones says that the laspteel bass is stringed with bass strings… Which seems odd to me if I rely on the pictures (or the video below). Anyway I’m not going to say it can’t be as he is the owner of the instrument, and he knows better than I would do.  Anecdote: to prepare this article, I was reading some elements of John Paul Jones’ biography which reminded me a fact that I totally forgot for many years. John Paul Jones was a lap steel player before he joined Led Zep!

Here is a video of Them Crooked Vultures – No One Loves Me & Neither Do I to appreciate the tone, and possibilites of the instrument. And obviously enjoy the band’s music…


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