Buke and Gase are a Brooklyn-based indie rock duo with members Aron Sanchez and Arone Dyer. They make many of their instruments and electronics by hand. The Buke is a modified six string baritone ukulele, and the Gase is a homemade guitar/bass hybrid. They also use an array of pedal-driven percussion instruments. Their Function Falls EP was released this past September. I was able to catch up with Aron and talk about how he makes and modifies his instruments and pedals, his work with Blue Man Group, and much more.
I noticed that you were in the band Proton Proton. I was in a band called Kinetic and we actually shared a bill at Galapagos back in 2005. I thought that was a funny coincidence.
When you were in Proton Proton was that the first iteration of the Gase?
Yeah it was the first iteration. I was working with a friend of mine. He was playing drums at the time and it was just the two of us and we were trying to figure out what to do when starting a new project. That was an idea I’d always had in my head– to expand the bass, add more guitar, be able to do higher range stuff on a bass– sort of a more flexible kind of thing. And that’s when I started developing the Gase.
What sort of technical stuff did you have to do to the instrument to make it work?
I wanted to be able to separate the sounds, so I wanted the bass strings to go to a bass amp and the guitar strings to go to a separate guitar amp. It was a lot of fiddling around with pickup arrangements, putting pickups sideways, doing things to catch certain strings, and then it moved on to actually making the pickups. I started making single coil pickups, doing a pickup per string. Then I started messing around with changing the stringing of where the bass strings and guitar strings are. So now they’re alternating with a bass string, guitar string, bass string, guitar string. And then working with scaling– what was the appropriate scaling for the guitar? Should it be a bass scale or a guitar scale? I was messing around with baritone guitar scale lengths.
The latest incarnation of the Gase.
How has that progressed up to where you are now with the Buke and the Gase? How are they put together? What sort of challenges have you had to overcome in order to get the sound and the playability you’ve wanted?
A lot of them, and they’re always changing– it’s kind of always evolving depending on what I’ve wanted to do. For a while I was trying to get it to sound more acoustic but still having a very electric sound. So I was experimenting with more acoustic, resonant bodies. I’m still doing that but I’m getting more problems with feedback once you start using distortion with a really resonant body so I’m experimenting with semi-hollow bodies. And then also the pickups are always a constant struggle to get them to do the right thing. I’ve made lots of pickups, experimented with different windings to get a particular frequency range in the guitar section or the bass section. Also the two sections combined becomes a new thing, how the bass and the guitar strings work together. Even though they’re going to different amps they have a relationship that I have to deal with. It’s a constant struggle.