February 2002

All Hail The Riff King!

The Riff King Paul (Paulembic) does many cool things for us at Alembic (perhaps you've seen our latest catalog?) and he's also the owner of an instrument based on basses played by his hero, John Paul Jones. John's main 8-string Series II Alembic was crafted from Rosewood, but Paul asked for some very interesting differences from Jonesy's 1976-1980 basses. Pouring over books and exchanging long conversations led to the concept for the Riff King.
The laser LED's are incredibly bright and cannot be captured on film, whatever Photoshop skills one has. But here's as close as can be done--they truly knock an audience on their rear ends, right before the zooming, churning, sub-octave roar of the beast itself. In fact, the sound of this bass can be dialed in from so many degrees of crunch and rumble, but as an 8-string it always has that inimitable roar that multi-coursed strings bring.
Riff King topography

The body is something special. Paul requested to have the body make from solid Zebrawood, but that won't allow for the continuous wood backplate fabrication. Our solution was to start with a solid Zebrawood body that Kris sawed into the various body laminations. We added thin Ebony accents and used hollow core construction like most Series II basses and guitars. The main feature of this unorthodox Alembic woodwork is seen in a side view of the body, where the highly defined stripes of the zebrawood, when sawn and carved, produce an amazing topographic map effect.

Back Plates
Unbound Continuous Wood Backplates make a nearly seamless look on the back of the bass. This bass is thinner than the basses we made twenty years ago, so the electronics are spread out amongst the three cavities. The Ebony neck laminates add mass, weight and a sublime fundamental deep sustain that erupts from deep under any stage.
Peghead Paul wanted an old-school Alembic badge on the headstock without the Alembic script. It works very well on the smaller headstock, too. The instrument is properly heavy, but has excellent balance, due to the placement of the straplocks and the smaller, more compact Knobby headstock.
Bridge, Tailpiece, Omega
Paul also wanted a slightly wider-fretboard than his normal narrow preference, because even on an 8-string, he uses pick, fingers and a combination of slap/pop and free-form tapping.
Each string can be individually intonated, and with all that hardware, the bridge could be a little cramped. We chose to conceal the mounting hardware for the intonation screws for a clean uncluttered appearance.
The custom shaped tailpiece echoes our early era - a shape we call "The Mustache." We built it like we did back then from a thick brass plate and an Ebony shim underneath. Both are finished with our polyester paint.
LEDs Side LEDs are part of the scheme along with front Laser LEDs. When the power supply is connected, the side LED position markers help Paul find his way on a dimly lit stage. The front Laser LEDs are for the audience to enjoy. The addition of a dimmer control allows Paul to set the brightness to his preference.
Okay, okay, about those inlays -- (we always say, at Alembic, "custom" means what ever you want) they are 110% Paul. He is a graphic deginer by trade, so of course he wanted to be intimately involved with the inlay design.
Om inlay Tibetan "Om" symbol-signifying the essence of divine presence.
Mother of Pearl
Om inlay Egyptian Eye of Horus (modified): Horus, the hawk-headed child God, surrounded by emanating rays of divine light and love.
Mother of Pearl, Sterling Silver
Watersign inlay Paul is an Aquarius, so, this is an easy one.
Laminated Abalone
Chi inlay The Chinese symbol for Chi (Paul is a Tai Chi devotee).
Mother of Pearl
Jonesy inlay What else at the octave? John Paul Jones' rune (seen on Led Zeppelin's fourth album. The rune is an ancient hex sign, also conveying confidence and competence. (Try drawing it freehand sometime.)
Laminated Abalone
Mercury inlay Alchemical symbol for mercury. Also a hermaphroditic symbol, showing the power essence of a combined male/female force.
Mother of Pearl
Snake inlay A coiled serpent-representing power in reserve, also the breath force, commonly illustrated as a coiled serpent at the base of the spine.
Laminated Abalone


  • 8-string Series I
  • 34.00 long scale
  • Zebrawood top and back
  • Zebrawood core
  • Continuous Zebrawood body laminates
  • Ebony neck and body laminates
  • Knobby Peghead
  • Series II electronics, pickup selector on lower horn
  • Side LEDs in red
  • Red Laser LEDs
  • JPJ Triple Omega body
  • Ebony fingerboard
  • Custom inlays
  • Continuous wood backplates
  • Logo only, no script
  • Gold plated hardware

Price available on request

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