| Home Page || About This Company || Meet The Staff | Other Services Available:| Custom Necks || Restorations & Parts |Some Interesting Things:| Links & References || News & Notes || The Bass Banjo || The SWR Project |
New Instruments:| AEB-2 & AUB-2 Scroll Basses || SSB Short Scale Bass || The New Devil Bass || Instruments Currently Available || Prices & Options || Cases || Strings || AEB-2/AUB-2 Technical || Necks || Bodies || Paint || Hardware || SSB Technical |
Vintage Ampegs: | Overview || AEB-1 & AUB-1 || ASB-1 & AUSB-1 || AMB-1 & AMUB-1 || SSB & SSUB || Technical Info |

About This Extremely Strange Company...

Yup, that's me, Bruce Johnson, the owner of Johnson's Extremely Strange Musical Instrument Company. This is a one-man and one-dog company, with no other employees. I'm the chief engineer, accountant, sales rep, web site manager, janitor, and when I have time, I actually build all the instruments myself. My dog Pepper watches the office, barks at nothing in particular, and take naps. That's her job.

A Quick Tour Of My Shop...
Meet My Staff...

A Brief History Of This Company...

I've been collecting basses and working on instruments for about 20 years, and I've always had a workshop full of woodworking machines. I got into building instruments as a sideline business in 1989, under the rather boring name of Johnson Research & Development. My friend Julie Moffitt suggested the name Johnson's Extremely Strange Musical Instrument Company, which I adopted in 1992. During those days my main project was the Bass Banjo, an giant upright banjo that stands 6'5". I had a lot of fun with it, terrorizing bluegrass festivals. Hit the link for a page of pictures and information about it.

In '94 and '95, I moved into building electric basses. I worked with a team of friends and developed a cool new bass for the SWR company. It was called the SWR Workingman's Bass. I developed all the tooling and production processes, and we built 8 prototypes (I still own five of them). Unfortunately, the project just didn't pencil out financially and got cancelled. It's too bad, because it was a nice instrument. But the market timing was wrong, and I learned a lot from the project. Many of the production methods that I worked out then evolved into what I use today.

From '96 through '99, I developed the AEB-2/AUB-2 Scroll Basses, which is my own personal passion. The whole story of that project is on the AEB-2 & AUB-2 Scroll Basses page. I've now expanded out into a few other things, including restorations of vintage Ampegs and custom order necks. I'm also gradually adding a few other model instruments to my product line. Some, like the SSB and the Devil Bass, will be derivatives of Ampeg models, and others won't.

I've deliberately kept this company small and tightly focused on a narrow line of instruments that I have a particular interest in. I've developed my own manufacturing processes and tooling that allows me to make these instruments surprisingly efficiently in batches of a couple at a time. Yes, I could hire employees and try to build this up into a bigger business, but I really don't want to. The musical instrument business is insanely competitive and it's very difficult to make it work by any standard business model. Instrument companies spring up and go bankrupt every year. I don't want to go through those boom-and-crash cycles. I'm in this business because I truly enjoy designing and building musical instruments, and I'd rather keep it small and under my control. My goal is to build up a solid reputation in a specialized part of the market over a long time, and eventually have a steady, enjoyable semi-retirement business.

My Other Business...

By the way, this isn't a full time thing for me. I'm a mechanical engineer/inventor with about 25 years of experience in advanced R & D groups at large companies. Back in the '70's, I worked in auto racing, developing engines and test equipment. Through the '80's, I was in the defense business designing advanced weapon systems for the Army, and working on "black" programs at the Lockheed Skunk Works.

Through the '90's, I worked at Walt Disney Imagineering, the company that designs and builds Disney's theme parks. I was a senior-level mechanical engineer in the R & D division, where I specialized in robotic figures and advanced ride systems. Those were fun years, but the interesting work tapered off towards 2000, and I got out of it as I built up my musical instrument business.

So, I've expanded my design & fabrication business into other areas. I operate under the business name of Johnson's Rather Odd Custom Shop, and I'm essentially an inventor for hire. I design and build mechanical devices and components for various companies around the Burbank area. I've done subcontract work for set-building companies, such as trade show models and parts for museum exhibits. In the last two years, I've been concentrating on the recording/editing studio industry, including custom panels and components for high-end studio consoles, and even specialty microphones. I find that I really enjoy the field of metalworking for electronics; designing and building the hardware to package and mount electronic devices. My clients now include several major companies that do the post-production editing and mixing of movie soundtracks, and a few music recording studios. They've been keeping me very busy!

My Bands...

Although I've been collecting and building basses for many years, until recently, I hadn't put much effort into learning how to play. Now I'm actually quite busy as the bassist in two bands.

I joined Kelly's Lot in 1999, and it's been a real education for me. These guys are good, and they've pushed me hard. We play almost all original music in a wide variety of styles, from nasty rock to gutsy blues to gentle jazz. Our gigs range from light acoustic shows in bookstores to opening for major bands at outdoor festivals. In April 2002, we went on a cross-country tour in support of The American Liver Foundation, and had a great time. Our fearless leader Kelley Zirbes is constantly involved in charity-related projects. Since the tour, we've backed off the schedule, and only play occasional local gigs.

The All Digital String Band is a bunch of friends who work at (or used to work at) Disney, who play together mostly for fun. We play bluegrass-style music, with some acoustic folk and blues mixed in. We don't play many real gigs, mostly just jam sessions and parties these days. Lately, we've been getting interested in writing children's music in the bluegrass style. We've actually been playing together in various forms for almost 10 years.

With Kelly's Lot, I usually play one of my AEB-2 Fretted Scroll Basses. Our most recent CD, titled STOP!, was recorded live at Hallenbecks Main Street Cafe in North Hollywood. I played AEB-2 #019 plugged directly into the recording console, with an Aux out feeding a small amp for me to hear. It sounded great just as it was and we hardly touched it during mixdown. On stage, I use an Ampeg SVT-III Pro head with various combinations of speaker cabinets. At small gigs, I use a little Carvin PB150-10 combo amp. With the All Digital String Band, I play one of my AUB-2 Fretless Scroll Basses, these days #048. Sometimes I'll take one of my vintage Ampegs just for fun.

Kelly's Lot in a somber-looking pose

The All Digital String Band rips the stage.