At Blast Cult, Building Upright Basses is a Sonic Religion

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The monks of Blast Cult

Jason Burns hates Guitar Center.

Now, plenty of career musicians will happily trash retail music stores and their Wal-Mart-ized supply of overpriced and underwhelming instruments. But Burns isn't some bitter bluesman on a bar stool - he's the owner and lead builder at Blast Cult, an elite brand that makes upright basses for everyone from Willie Nelson to Cirque du Soleil. For Burns and his team, it's all about quality, quantity be damned.

"With the staff we have, 20 instruments maxes us out on a busy month, so we can keep the quality control right," Burns says. "In those big-box stores, you have people fingering up these $200 guitars, and then [the stores] want to send them back to you because they're scratched ... even five years from now, we'll only be able to make so many, so it's a little more special."

Courtesy of Blast Cult
Keeping their products special is more than a job to the Blast Cult bunch. The company logo describes their work as a "Sonic Religion," making these luthiers (a fancy word for instrument-makers) clergy as much as craftsmen.

Building each upright bass is a four- to six-week process, and it all happens in Blast Cult's headquarters in Orange, tucked away in a nondescript office park a short distance from Anaheim Stadium. Every piece of each instrument is made by hand, from the first cut of wood to the last layer of eye-popping custom paint.

Launched from the ashes of Burns' previous shingle, King Doublebass, Blast Cult instruments are designed to stand up to the daily trials of working musicians. Each piece comes with the lessons learned over more than 20 years of trial and error, as Burns tried to keep his own instruments in one piece on the road. Upright basses are tricky - heat and humidity can cause glued wood joints to separate or warp, and bumps and bruises from touring can eventually tear a bass apart. "I used to spend nights after shows in my hotel room, gluing pieces back together," the Louisiana native says.

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