I remember lying under a grand piano as a kid, while my mum played one of Chopin's heavier Etudes on it. It's like a thunderstorm directly overhead, something living just south of Bodmin Moor taught me a lot about.
Soon after this experience, I heard 'Peaches', by the Stranglers. I have sometimes made remarks that make people around me give the look askance. I remember saying to punks various in 1979 that punk was like folk music. This was considered to be the very heighth of uncool, but decades later John Lydon said that 'Anarchy In The UK' is a folk song. I rest my case.
I do not know JJ Burnel, and he, never mind anyone else, may give me the Look Askance if I said this: That bass sound is an approach to getting the heft of a piano into an intrument that can be wielded with power and agility, rather than having to sit at it. Whether or not this is what JJ was after, it IS true. Put a new set of roundwound strings onto any bass capable of a good growling sound, and play it through an Ashdown ABM 4x10 cab, and the sound really IS a lot like a piano's bass end. Far more so than a mere impression. The strings are wound the same way, and better yet, playing near the bridge with a well-aimed strike with some force to it will hit the string at about the same ratio along its length as a piano string is struck by its hammer. I do not believe it's entirely coincidental that this is where JJ likes to hit it... A great deal of the timbre is related to this striking point.
JJ Burnel allegedly lost his tone after the breaking of an earlier (green) Fender Precision Bass guitar. I imagined there must be other ways to get that tone, partly by figuring out the dynamics of playing near the bridge with enough of the variables constrained, like strings, structure and materials of the guitar, effects, etc. Most good things were created in more than one way. He designed, with John Shuker, a bass that would be light in weight but capable of a heavy sound. It was too expensive for me to afford, and I'd already started with a second hand Status Graphite bass. (It did look awesome...) I convinced myself I'd got the right sound, and it was fairly close, but a dull impresssion of the original because everything about that bass was old and tired. That bass died a death that was a lot more sad than it was rock and roll.
I decided I had to try again, and found another used Status bass similar to it to try. It was in very good restored condition, but it didn't work for me... Maybe the different preamp in there caused unrest, but for whatever reason, the sound was DIABOLICAL! The best way I can characterise the impression in one word is 'tinny'. Bright lightweight base metal. Or worse, hard brittle plastic! I read that JJ Burnel was considering an all-graphite neck. If you're reading this, JJ, please, don't go there. :) It's too simple a resonance, too bright, and the neck of a guitar has a powerful, irreducible impact on the sound. I found a MUCH better way... (And the Shuker bass's neck construction is already much closer than will easily be had by any guitar).
I used to live with the Bristol punk band Amebix, only for a few months, but long enough to learn a lot. Rob (the Baron) Miller, had a Westone Thunder 1-A. I knew it could make a heavy sound, but I never really 'got it' at the time. A few years later, Neil (aka Virus, drummer of same band) leant me that bass. I never felt like it was, or ever could be, mine. I was 'born to play bass', Neil joked, about a month after I had it here, when he saw it gathering dust. The thing is, I probably was, I had always thought in 'bass lines' for tunes, even as a kid. So having got into it deeply enough not to stop, I reconsidered the Westone Thunder 1-A. I bought one on eBay for about £240. The rock maple neck with rosewood fingerboard and a steel truss rod made a composite material that growled. It didn't matter that the bass was heavier, harder to play, than the Status bass, That Sound was there at its heart, and as it was a Japanese attempt to emulate the Fender Precision Bass without stamping on copywritten toes, and made on the same production lines as many 'better' guitars, I realised I'd been stupid to underestimate it!
Playing Rotosound RS66LD strings near the bridge with the right force will grind triangular Tortex 1.14 mm picks badly. (I probably help to keep Gibson in business). It also grinds the hell out of the original nickel frets! They were already worn, and dying fast, so they had to be replaced with the toughest frets I could find.