‘The Eastern Dark’ Maton Bass

A beautiful bass from one of Australia’s legendary bands, The Eastern Dark.

Growing up in country NSW, I missed out on a lot of the Australian music that I listen to today. Being pre-internet and about 9 hours drive from Sydney I didn’t really have access to ‘good’ Australian music… it was pretty much all Baby Animals and Screaming Jets on the radio back then. Thanks to friends like Dan & Fred from my band Sixfthick and Scott from Rockinghorse Records, my music knowledge in the last few years has come up to speed and I’m finally getting to listen to some awesome stuff.

A band that Dan told me to get into years ago is The Eastern Dark.

The Eastern Dark, Waterfront Records instore, Dec 21st, 1985.

The Eastern Dark was made up of ex-Celibate Rifles bassist James Darroch (RIP) on guitar and vocals, ex-Lime Spiders back up vocalist Bill Gibson on bass and Geoff Milne on drums. I tracked down a copy of ‘Julie Is A Junkie’ and dug the melodic pop-punk sound, harmonised vocals and awesome muscianship. It wasn’t that S0-Cal pop punk which I’m not a big fan off… this sounded decidedly Australian. But it was the song ‘Over Now’ that blew me away. Brilliant bassline, awesome lyrics and an Eastern Dark trademark harmonised chorus which sends chills up my spine whenever I hear it. My band Obliterati (featuring Dan Hick on guitar & vocals and me on bass) now play this song in our set and I’m loving playing Bill Gibson’s bass lines.

I managed to track Bill down on Facebook and knowing he played a beautiful Maton bass in The Eastern Dark, asked if he’d be willing to share the story of this cool (and historic) bass on guitarnerd. Here’s Bill’s own words (and photos)…

“Here’s my Maton Bass. It’s a weird one, even Maton don’t seem to know its exact heritage. The “truss rod cover” (which actually isn’t, as it adjusts from the bottom of the bolt-on neck) bills it as a “Sullivan F+4″, but it’s way more like a Wildcat than the Sullivan you have pictured on your blog.”

“It’s definitely a Wildcat body (has the contoured heel), and the original pickup config and scratch plate were identical to the pic on your page labeled ‘wildcat02’, but the headstock is less ‘slimline’ than either of the Wildcats you have pictured.”

“James Darroch had loaned it to me after my Ovation Magnum I was stolen, and it was given to me after his passing. From memory, it’s the bass I used for the recording of the “Long Live The New Flesh” EP.”

“James had replaced the scratch plate and pickups with DiMarzios in a more traditional P/J config. Fortunately, Pat Hayes from the Falling Joys used to own its brother (mine is s/n #017, his was #018!), so I got a good look at the original setup. The original scratchplate was grooved metal, possibly brass?” (Here’s an original Sullivan F+4)

“My guess would be that it was the first stage in the evolution of the Wildcat into the JB4. Incidentally, James also had a JB4 which he played extensively with the Celibate Rifles, and on our last visit to Melbourne in 1985 he scored a JB6! Wish I knew where that one had ended up…

Many years ago, in a foolish attempt to set it up myself, I took to the neck adjustment a little too vigorously with a spanner, and managed to snap the truss rod at the headstock where it was anchored, rendering it all but unplayable for years…until 2008, when my wife (as a birthday present to me) sent it back to Maton to be repaired. They did a sterling job on the repair, even replacing the now-rusting bridge with an original one they just happened to still have lying around.”

“This pic shows it as it ended up before I snapped the truss rod and put it away for 16 years….the folks at Maton removed all the stickers when they refurbished it – on the new pics I took you can see the finish is still shiny and new underneath where that big fIREHOSE sticker was, not worn and faded from sweat!”

“Although I own a number of other basses (a Gibson RD Artist, Epiphone Jack Casady and an Ibanez Iceman ICB300), the Maton will always be my ‘go-to’ bass for playing rock!”

“Oh, and I forgot to mention – before I got my Fender Bassman 135 (at James’ insistence), the first amp I used for bass in The Eastern Dark was a Vase Trendsetter 120! Still got it, too…”

A big thanks to Bill for the great story & photos. Now here’s some (very) rare live footage of The Eastern Dark performing ‘Julie Is A Junkie.’