Gene Simmons has played all sorts of instruments over the years, from the Charlie LoBue custom bass guitar heard on the early Kiss albums to his own Punisher and Axe signatures, although for a while in the mid-’70s Simmons did experiment with Gibson Grabbers and Rippers.
Last year’s news that he was launching his own G2 brand – pronounced ‘G squared’ –through the American giants nevertheless came as a surprise, the new collaboration pledging to release a whole range of guitars and basses built with the Demon’s personal seal of approval.
On first glance, this debut in the series—not in the form of a Grabber or Ripper, but a Thunderbird, interestingly – is certainly impressive. The contrast between the ebony nitrocellulose lacquer finish against the mirrorplex pickguard and truss-rod cover is eye-catching, treading the fine line between modern edge and classic finesse.
As well as the pearloid reverse split diamond inlays, it’s also nice to see the Gibson logo on the front of the headstock, with the G2 logo on the back side near the nut – a reassuring consideration given this instrument’s price.
The laser-engraved skull logo on the pickguard may not be to everyone’s taste, so you’ll either love it or hate it, though it does tie in with the rock’n’roll aesthetic associated with Kiss and therefore has its merits.
More importantly, however, this feels like a real Thunderbird – and being handmade in the USA, it very much is one, with an incredibly resonant mahogany body that rings loud acoustically before you’ve even plugged it in.
Once you do, the ceramic magnets in the Rhythm and Lead T-Bird humbuckers pack a powerful and immediate response, with no shortage of punch and depth, making for a bass that sounds, much like the American group’s landmark 1975 release, truly alive.
Unlike the EMG PJ set typically found in Simmons’ Punisher and Axe, however, these high-output humbuckers aren’t active, so there’s no need to worry about battery power.
The two volume controls allow for a blend of either or both pickups, with the rhythm unit alone bringing a wonderfully articulate sound that has enough brightness to retain definition and clarity.
More highs can then be cut using the master tone knob, allowing for softer, jazzier tones when dialled in clean – a nice option to have, even if Simmons himself tends not to go there.
Sounds and Playability
Switching to just the bridge pickup, there’s a huge shift in the midrange and a noticeable drop in the low-end that’s perfect for chords or riffs that need less sonic boom and more snarl, such as Simmons’ opening lines to Love Gun and Shout It Out Loud, played higher up the neck on the first string.
Together the two pickups complement each other very well indeed, with serious weight and bite that can be easily tamed through the respective volume controls.
They cover the classic Kiss tones, from the walking lines of Strutter through to heavier hits like Creatures Of The Night and beyond. Add in a healthy dose of compression or overdrive, as well as some heavily repeating delays, and it’s hard not to picture a possessed Simmons spitting out blood in front of you, screaming ‘Oh yeah!’ before attacking that open low note in God Of Thunder.
Like the best signature models, this is an instrument that ultimately inspires you to sound and play like the musician behind it, while also being capable of a lot more, from Motown to country, and with the right kind of EQ scoop and compression, even slapped funk – even if it’s not aimed at such musicians.
Every manufacturer will tell you that they try to ensure their guitars feel playable, but greater care needs to be taken with larger-bodied instruments like this Thunderbird, or they can end up feeling bulky and demanding. Gibson haven’t let themselves down here at all, with this review model feeling lighter than it looks.
It also arrives with a low enough action for more technically ambitious styles of playing, as well as basic root-noted rock, making bends, stretches and hammer-ons more comfortable than expected. Tuning stability and intonation also feel impeccable: This is definitely a ‘set and forget’ kind of bass that allows the player to focus on their performance, undistracted and with confidence.
All in all, this first offering from G2 delivers on virtually every front, from the dazzling black diamond aesthetic through to playability and versatility. Perhaps most importantly of all, it’s a bass that’s tailor-made for conjuring this larger-than-life character’s earth-conquering tones. He is the God Of Thunder, after all.
- PRICE: $2799
- MADE IN: USA
- BODY: Mahogany
- NECK: Mahogany, 34” scale
- NECK JOIN: Set neck
- FINGERBOARD: Ebony, 20 frets
- PICKUP: Rhythm (neck), Lead (bridge)
- CONTROLS: 2 x Volume, Master Tone
- HARDWARE: Hipshot bridge and tuners
- WEIGHT: 9 lbs (approx)
- LEFT-HAND AVAILABLE?: No
- CASE/GIGBAG: Yes
- CONTACT: Gibson