Dark Star

Austin's Dark Star This bass has been stolen. If you see it, please contact Alembic immediately (707) 523-2611. Thank you!

Austin adds to his impressive instrument collection with this magnificent jewel, named Dark Star after one of his favorite songs from the Grateful Dead. It will be sharing company with his three other Alembics. A Walnut Brown Bass with side LEDs was always Austin's "work bass," and one he had signed by Victor Wooten. His Ebony fretless Excel is the first one with blue side LEDs. The Big General is his Mark King Deluxe in Coco Bolo, a bass he loves dearly.
Dark Star is Austin's first custom Alembic bass, made to his exact specifications, including neck dimensions, wood selections and decorative details.

Peghead He asked for a tribute to Phil Lesh in the form of an inlaid logo on the peghead of his treasured bass. Susan designed a smaller version of Phil's logo and specified not only mother of pearl, sterling silver and abalone, but also blazing red and blue custom cast acrylic, materials not available in the early 1970s.
James selected and handcut the materials for the custom logo inlay, even taking care to choose a brighter mother-of-pearl for the outline of the cloud to contrast with the mother of pearl inner cloud.
Peghead back Austin chose a stealthy location for the inlay of his initial. It is his little secret hidden on the back of the peghead. It's not the first thing anyone will notice, and the audience may never see it. But Austin will always know it's there. On Phil Lesh's Osage Orange Alembic, an inlaid figure of Isis graces a simlar location.
James inlaid the letter in mother of pearl on the Macassar Ebony back veneer of the peghead.
Neck Woods When he described to Susan the kind of sound he was pursuing, she advised Austin to choose Ebony neck laminates. The Ebony is massive, and imparts a dramatically bigger sound, with a strong fundamental "push." Normally, the string's sustained sound is largely the second harmonic ringing. With Ebony in the neck, the energy from the second harmonic excites the fundamental as well. As the note decays, the two trade energy back and forth, resulting in a booming and full sound that's unexpected from a string
LEDs Austin is no stranger to LED side position markers. Two of his other Alembic basses have them, but these are his only green ones.
Each LED's diffuser is surrounded by an inlaid sterling silver circle, so that even when they aren't lit up as in the photo, the position is still clearly marked for reference. Because there is a diffuser for each LED, the one down at the third fret is a similar brightness to the ones you look straight down at the 24th fret.
pickups Wooden pickup covers don't have to be continuous to look cool. A complimentary or contrasting wood can also be very attractive. These Coco Bolo covers are a shock of orange-red across the field of black and white.
Pickup Detail We've started to add the wood covering on the top mounting flange of the pickups. We leave the sides of the pickup the original black polyurethane.
It only looks as if a screw is missing. In our pickup springless pickup mounting system, there are two upper, exposed screws and two lower, hidden screws. The lower screws determine the height of the pickup, while the upper ones clamp it firmly in place. When you use the edge of the pickup as a thumbrest, it can't wiggle up and down.
Coco Bolo Backplate The bold color of Coco Bolo is also echoed on the back of this bass. Each cover is made the same way as our continuous wood backplates, except that we don't use a fallout piece from the back for the final decorative layer. We can use any veneer that suits the overall design.
Plate Binding Small details can create a big impact. In order to bring out the dark features of the Coco Bolo, we used a small binding of Ebony veneer along the outside edge of each of the two plates. Attention to this fine point unifies the design.

Heart Omega A Standard Point Mark King model was already a prominent piece in Austin's collection. To further distinguish Dark Star among his basses, he selected a Heart Omega carving.
In the shop, it's a real joy to see Tony work. After some deft movements through the bandsaw, the Heart Omega appears. Tony continues carving the rounded and curved form of the Heart Omega completely by hand, using a collection of rasps, files and lots of time with sandpaper.
Logo It was rewarding to take this gifted player's ideas and translate them into a working musical machine. Austin's reaction can be read in his Factory to Customer thread on the Alembic Club.

Front Back


  • Signature Deluxe 5-string
  • Macassar Ebony top and back
  • Purpleheart accent laminates and Maple pinstripes
  • Maple neck with Ebony laminates
  • Custom logo inlay
  • Custom inlay on back of peghead
  • Balance K body shape with Heart Omega carving
  • Coco Bolo covered pickups
  • Coco Bolo backplates
  • Volume, Pan, Bass, Treble controls
  • Purchased from Bass Central
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Photograph of Pacific Ocean © 2004 Bill Thomas
Text and Photographs of guitar © 2005 Alembic, Inc.
Original artwork © 2004 Susan L. Wickersham

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