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John Wetton's gear?

Discussion in 'Bassists [BG]' started by corinpills, Mar 7, 2004.

  1. corinpills


    Nov 19, 2000
    Boston, MA
    Just out of curioisty, anybody know what kind of gear John Wetton used to use with King Crimson and UK and through to Asia? I know there's a white P Bass in the one photo of UK playing live I've ever seen, but does anyone have any more insight? He got such a great driving sound. I seem to recall a Tele bass in some Asis live video or something (old Guitar Player articles from the early 80s take up the space in my brain where other important thiings should go.) He's sort of an underrated guy, huh?
  2. for a brief period I recall him using (and being an endorser for) Ibanez
  3. Wetton is one of my favorites (check my profile!) but he has sort of fallen by the wayside. Since King Crimson, his recordings have been pretty feeble--the first UK disc is OK, the first Asia was pretty good, but everything else has been kind of weak.

    But he remains a great bassist. I have a video where he is singing and playing bass for Steve Hackett, with Ian McDonald on horns and keyboards. He does some great work.

    Anyway, I think he currently uses Fernandez basses. I remember him using Steinbergers in the Asia years...specifically during the 1983 tour. (Then again, who wasn't using Steinbergers in the 1980s?)


    Aug 13, 2003
    Sulphur LA
    I recall seeing a Guitar Player article from '82 or something where he had Marshall heads in some sort of rack. I loved the Asia bass tones and still do! Can any of the older guys back up or confirm the heads he used in that era? I would love to know for sure.
  5. corinpills


    Nov 19, 2000
    Boston, MA
    Now that's interesting because from listening to his King Crimson stuff (Lark's Tongue In Aspic, Starless and Red), his growly tone had a hint of the Chris Squire in it, but more Fendery than Rickenbackery, but I was kind of guessing the Marshall Super Bass for an amp. It didn't sound like an SVT.

    By the way, for anybody who only knows the 80's version of King Crimson, or any Asia fans (there's gotta be one left somehwre), those early 70's albums with Wetton are really something. Very dissonant and majestic.
    andawun likes this.


    Aug 13, 2003
    Sulphur LA
    Maybe it was the Marshall Super bass. I love the sound in the keyboard break of "Heat of The Moment." I wish I could find a copy of that article. Anyone have it?
  7. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    KC: Precision Bass, HiWatt bass amps, some unknown brand Italian made fuzz-wah pedal.

    Pics of UK and Asia show him still using a P-Bass, although during Asia he was an Ibanez endorser for a while. No idea about his amps.
    Mvilmany and prohumanbeing like this.
  8. I think I may have read somewhere that he's had some problems with

    Still, I view his bass parts on Red etc. as being the type of playing I
    strive towards, even if I may never get there!
  9. corinpills


    Nov 19, 2000
    Boston, MA
    Hiwatts are amazing, amazing amps. They don't get mentioned very much because they didn't really make amps specifically for bass very much. They have done a few over the years, but essentially they are the same as their guitar heads with higher wattage. When I play guitar, my limited skills are helped enormously be putting my Gretsch Country Club through a Hiwatt and into one of Joe Walsh's old 4x12 cabinets (which adds good mojo for sure). That and the right rock face will usually cut the mustard! It's instant "Teenage Wasteland"
  10. Metal Mitch

    Metal Mitch

    Jul 14, 2003
    Yeah those are great albums. Wetton also plays on the 1975 "USA" live album, which is my favorite KC of all time. His distortion is just brutal and crunchy as hell - I always thought it was a wall of Marshalls but if it's a pedal I'd be very interested to know which one.
  11. Benjamin Strange

    Benjamin Strange Commercial User

    Dec 25, 2002
    New Orleans, LA
    Owner / Tech: Strange Guitarworks
    I think Fripp said something about Wetton using a JBL 2x15 PA cab during the Red days.
  12. Aldebaran


    Mar 4, 2011
    Very late to this party, but here's the scoop on Wetton's gear for live performances during his 1972-1974 stint with King Crimson, which some here may find interesting:

    1. Two different Fender Precision basses (pre-1974, a tan model, likely pre-CBS; 1974: a white model)

    2. Rotosound Roundwound strings

    3. HiWatt amplifiers, as noted above

    4. HiWatt cabinets, pre-1974; 1974: Cerwin-Vega bass Reflex cabinet (no other information).

    5. Electro-Voice speakers

    6. Effects pedal: Jen Double Sound (fuzz/wah)

    Most of the above information comes from the horse's mouth. A friend of mine attended a KC Night Watch CD signing on my behalf in 1997. In addition to getting a signed CD for me, I asked my friend to query Wetton about his equipment in those days. Wetton graciously wrote it all out on a slip of paper, which my friend sent to me, and which I seem to have lost during one of my many moves. :mad:

    A couple of side notes. The Vega cabinet is apparently the source of much of the musical and interpersonal tension that gradually built between Wetton and the rest of the band, especially Fripp and Cross. This is because the Vega was so loud that Wetton did not even go through the PA, and he still drowned out his fellow band-mates. When Fripp refers to insensitive players during this time who seemed not interested in what his fellow band members were doing, he seems to be alluding to Wetton, unfortunately.

    I saw Wetton with Uriah Heep (*shudders*) in 1975. He was still using his KC set-up from the previous year, and the Vega cabinet was indeed loud (and beautiful).

    Finally, someone mentions that Wetton has fallen by the wayside, a bit. I think that the series of DGM releases of live material from the 1973-74 period has done much to enhance and rebuild Wetton's reputation not only as one of the finest and most creative players of his era, but of all time.
    thumbslapper and Bass V like this.
  13. Ric5

    Ric5 Supporting Member

    Jan 29, 2008
    I think there was a big muff pedal in there somewhere ... some of his recordings sound like that was there.

    I used to run a Sunn 4x12 cab with vega speakers. They gave me a good full range tone. It had more bite than the standard Sunn 4x12 cab. Then later I had an acoustic 301 folded horn cabinet with a cerwyn vega 1x18. It sounded better than most 1x18 cabs from that era. Again it reproduced frequencies from the whole spectrum quite well.
  14. That's very nice info about Wetton--some stuff I didn't know, including the fuzz/wah (I bet those are strictly unfindable).

    Though it's nigh impossible to cop that Wetton overdrive tone, I've found that the Tech 21 Leeds pedal can get you in the general ballpark (as it ought to, since it's a Hiwatt emulator).
  15. Aldebaran


    Mar 4, 2011
    Glad you found it interesting, Jumbotron.

    P.S. I am apparently wrong about the two different P- basses. In another thread, someone mentions that Wetton had his 1961 P-bass refinished in white.

    Part of my reason for finding and posting here is that I've finally succeeded in getting a Jen Double Sound in decent condition. I'll let you know how it sounds with my '78 P-bass w. Jazz Bass neck.
  16. FretlessMainly


    Nov 17, 2010
    Yes, a few of us are quite late to the party but I'll chime in. Interesting stuff. I remember reading what I think was a Fripp quote (possibly in the Great Deceiver box set) about Wetton using a fOXX fuzz/wah/volume in those days, but the info above would indicate that he used a Jen. I had also read somewhere about the pedal having been made in Italy.

    In any case, I own a modern re-issue of the fOXX fuzz/wah/volume and this pedal gets very close - it's really a monster. The problem is, the switch under the footplate is pretty cheap and it failed on me. My repair guy indicated that the only replacements are equally cheap, so it's likely that the pedal just won't be reliable for me. And the pedal isn't cheap, so consider that too.
  17. Aldebaran


    Mar 4, 2011

    Thanks for chiming in about the Vega. It's good to hear from others who used it.

    As for the pedal: anything is possible, but, so far as pedals go, I've never heard Wetton refer to anything but the Jen during that era.


    Yes, Fripp appears to be mistaken, about Wetton's using a Foxx pedal. By the way, I had an original of the Foxx fuzz/wah/volume pedal. It had a good sound, but not a great one, in my opinion, but mine did at least last a while!
  18. Bigjohn


    Mar 5, 2010
    Yeah, Wetton used a p-bass into HIWATT heads while he was in King Crimson (72-74).
    Everybody in KC used Hiwatts from the beginning in 69 up until Fripp disbanded the group in 74.
    But unlike Greg Lake and Boz Burrell, Wetton added a folded horn 1x18 "W" cab along with normal front loaded HIWATT 4x12 cabs. You can find live pictures on the internet from the Wetton/Bruford period where you can see Wetton's setup. He usually had the folded horn cab on its side and pushed way back, probably dealing with the long "throw" (or whatever they call it) of those cabs.
    You can REALLY hear that folded horn sound on the live tracks of Starless And Bible Black (Fracture, Starless And Blible Black, The Mincer, Trio) and Red (Providence) as well as on the live albums USA and others Fripp has released. Actually, all of Red (studio tracks too) have that sound so he probably used his live rig for that album. His tone got more aggressive as time went on (from Larks to Starless to Red).
    Wetton's chops were SICK back in those days. He and Bruford were a crazy powerful rhythm section. From what I've read, it seemed like maybe Fripp felt he was losing control.
    Later (78 or 79?), I saw Wetton (and Bruford) in UK and Wetton was using Marshall tube heads. He had a good sound but it was different than his Crimson sound. I don't think he was using the folded horn then.
  19. steveo33


    Nov 11, 2009
    Cleveland, OH
    JW is a beast. He didn't get to do much with Asia.
    I seem to recall him with a Gibson Victory on occasion.
  20. Jeramaya


    Feb 18, 2007
    Madison, WI
    Regarding the Vega, Fripp had this to say in the Great Deceiver liner notes: "JW's Vega. A particularly powerful bass cabinet John used. This gave John about the most exciting bass sound I've ever heard. It was also so loud that it overwhelmed the pa system. PW had to mix John out of the house. Vega volume on 11, John still triumphed over us all, and he sounded great. But very hard to accommodate in the overall group mix."

    He also mentions something about his "Foxx Fuzz/Wah pedal." I'm not saying he was right about John having the Foxx, just saying that's he wrote.

    He goes on to write this: "Between 1973/4 KC had an increasingly loud bass player of staggering strength and imagination...it wasn't hard to hear the bass, and almost impossible not to."

    After listening to this band since the mid-90's, I still cannot get over the music they made during the mid-70's.
    Jah Wobble Fan likes this.

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