Chowny Bass GuitarsIf you're looking for high-end low-end, one of the most impressive companies we've dealt with recently has to be CHOWNY BASS. When GET READY TO ROLL!'s resident odd-job-man was looking for yet another bass guitar to clutter up his girlfriend's living room, he did a fair bit of research and landed on a model that ticked all his boxes. Add that to the excellent customer service, the deal was soon sealed, and before you could say "all cows eat grass" he was sprawled out on her sofa, pretending to be Mark King and forgetting he'd even got a girlfriend. So while he was busy noodling, she decided to chat to STEPHEN CHOWN about the CHOWNY range of basses.

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Hello Stephen - firstly, please talk us through the timeline of Chowny, and what you do there.
Hello! I'm Stephen Chown, the founder and director of Chowny, which I modestly named after myself. To be more precise the company shares the name with my Xbox Live gamertag! I'm a designer, social media manager, production manager... in fact I do pretty much every job other than luthier duties or graphic design work. If only I'd known that founding my own guitar company would involve quite so much time spent carrying boxes... but it's worth it!

Chowny Bass GuitarsI started with the first model (the CHB-1) in February 2015. I knew that as a small start-up I was never going to compete with Fender or similar companies making Jazz basses for instance, just due to their advantages in economy of scale, so I decided to start with something that was a bit more niche. It was a matter of looking at everything that was being sold, and trying to find somewhere in the market that was being underserved. Ultimately I settled on a short scale semi-hollow bass.

Actual work began a bit earlier in 2014 when I designed the bass and commissioned samples from various factories with very mixed results. When I finally got a bass and was happy with it in terms of quality and price - both of which I wanted to push as far as I could - I had some samples made.

So I had a product, a name and a factory willing to work with a startup. Originally the plan was to launch on Kickstarter, but by that point there was enough social media following that it was worth just inviting pre-orders and using the profit from that first batch to cover all the setup costs and invest in initial stock. That was the start of Chowny and we've been growing steadily since.

What prompted you to focus on selling bass guitars - are you a bassplayer yourself?
Bassplaying was a bit of a midlife crisis for me. I was turning 40 and thought I needed to learn to play an instrument before then. I went from learning to play to running my own bass guitar company very quickly. I'm a passable bass player at best - I never get enough time to practice. But I try and surround myself with great players and I really enjoy working together with them to design and fine tune the range.

I've been very fortunate to join forces with a few colleagues that I met through making basses. Scott Whitley who designed the SWB-1 Bass originally approached me to have his basses made, and when he moved from playing the bass with the Animals to Big Country, he asked if'd I'd take over production. Also David Konig from Retrovibe has a lot of experience designing basses. We got together because we were using the same production facilities and earlier this year we took over manufacturing these too. Retrovibe have stayed on as an in-house design consultancy helping to produce some new basses.

Chowny Bass GuitarsWhat would your customers say are the most important features to take into account when choosing a bass - e.g. neck, pickups, wood, weight, price, the country it's made in, after-sales service, etc?
Is this an attempt to lure me into the tonewood debate? It won't work! I think it's important to make something that looks great and sounds great. Sure the first thing that attracts people is the fact that they look cool, but if you can't back that up with a great tone it's a wasted effort. An enormous amount of research goes into choosing the right wood and parts for the basses.

Working with our production facilities we also have to try and be practical - for instance choosing wood that grows in the regions that our basses are made. This makes them more affordable, and more sustainable. Finally we squeeze the production costs as much as we can without sacrificing what the bass looks and feels like.

I also like to think that we are part of a bass player community - and it's a tightly knit one. This means being absolutely committed to making sure that everybody who buys a bass either loves it - or gets their money back. We try to follow this approach to after sales as much as we can. It keeps us very busy.

Chowny Bass GuitarsYour basses get very good reviews, including this one at Bass Guitar Magazine. How do you ensure quality control and set-up for the basses you send out?
Every bass that comes in from the factory goes through our workshop. We're still a small company and have limited resources, so this means working with a great local luthier who sets up every bass that goes out. We check each bass for relief, adjust the truss rod cover and action height, file or raise the nut if necessary, check the electronics and set the intonation and tuning. This means, unless it was knocked around in transit, your bass should play pretty well right out the box.

Chowny Bass GuitarsWhat bass strings do you prefer, and which strings are sent out with Chowny basses?
D'Addario strings all the way! They are fantastic strings and a great company to work with. We either fit D'addario EXL170 or EXL170BT strings depending on the bass. The other advantage is the strings are colour coded, which as far as I know is unique to D'Addario, so anybody looking a photo of our bass would be able to easily see they don't have cheap strings on.

What changes have you seen regarding how people buy basses? Do more people buy direct these days, just from seeing the tech-specs online, or do people prefer to try them out at a dealership first? What's the trend?
Chowny sells directly and also through retailers (only in the UK at the moment). There is a scheme in place to ensure that direct sales don't negatively impact the bricks and mortar stores that stock our stuff. As for trends in buying - some people like to play a bass first and some people will buy based on specs, photos and online videos. I think it depends largely on age with older and more experienced players being more cautious.

Who are your own favourite bass players, and what is it that makes them stand out?
Geddy Lee from Rush - I've been a huge fan of Rush for many years. Also Pino Paladino (especially with the John Mayer trio), Sting (I wish I could sing and play bass at the same time), Flea, John Entwistle, Tim Commerford... I could make a very long list. I also like bassists who create easy (for me) bass lines that are interesting to play - Tim Nordwind from OK Go or Johnny Colt from the Black Crowes for instance.

Chowny Bass GuitarsAt Chowny we work with gigging musicians such as Scott Whitley from Big Country, and we also work a lot with bassists from Youtube. We've had our basses played by Davie504, Rob Scallon and Dmitry Lisenko, and closely work with new bassists like Danny Sapko.

Which one bass in the Chowny range do you like best - and why?
My favourite bass in the range is always going to be the CHB-1. It was the first one I designed, and far more successful than I anticipated. I think I was lucky and caught a rise in semi-hollow bass popularity. I owe the foundation of the whole company to it. It also has a lovely short scale neck that's easy to play with my stubby fingers and a sound that is unlike most other basses.

If budget was unlimited what bass (modern or vintage) would you buy for yourself?
I've still not owned a Fender Jazz. I really should get a nice one - vintage or otherwise. I quite fancy the Geddy Lee signature.

I have to ask this... what's your favourite bassplayer joke?
A woman is on trial for beating her husband to death with his guitar collection. Judge says 'First offender?' She says 'No, first a Gibson! Then a Fender!'... tumbleweed...

Chowny Bass GuitarsWhat plans do you have for the future of Chowny?
We have a new bass coming out that we're very excited about, but I can't reveal anything about it yet. It's a signature bass working with a prominent YouTube bassist. We've also got some more pedals in the works (Octave, Compression, etc) to go along with our recently released Fuzz Pedal. And then I think I'm going to have a rest. And let the range sit a bit before adding anything new - at least for this year. We'd like to expand our dealer network in the USA a bit too - hopefully by attending NAMM in 2018.

Click on the links below to find out more about Chowny Bass Guitars

Chowny Bass Guitars
Chowny Bass Guitars

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