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Bass Player - May 2018

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b a s s p l a y e r. c o m
MUSIC & TAB
®
STRAP IT ON!
STU HAMM
GIG BAG ROUNDUP
FRETBOARD MINIMALISM
RA DIAZ
IAN HILL
TONE TIPS WITH
SUICIDAL TENDENCIES
CRAFT & CRUNCH
WITH JUDAS PRIEST
RON JOHNSON
GREGG ALLMAN GROOVES
Bigg̈er Bottom!
SPINAL TAP’S
Derek Smalls
GOES SOLO
REVIEWED
OVATION MOD TX BASS
SEREK SACRAMENTO BASS
MAY 2018
A N E W B AY M E D I A P U B L I CAT I O N
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RAPHAEL SAADIQ
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CLASSIC DESIGN MADE NEW.
THE ‘70s JAZZ BASS. AMERICAN ORIGINAL SERIES.
©2018 Fender Musical Instruments Corporation. All rights reserved. FENDER, FENDER in fanciful script, JAZZ BASS and the distinctive headstock
commonly found on Fender guitars and basses are registered trademarks of FMIC. Registered in the U.S. and foreign countries.
PLAY
LEARN
C ontents
| VOLUME 29, NUMBER 5
|
B A S S P L AY E R . C O M
D B
BASS NOTES
26 DEREK SMALLS
ROB SHANAHAN
JAMIROQUAI’S “SOMETHING
ABOUT YOU”
Note lengths are key to Paul Turner’s retro-vibey feel on this cut from 2017’s
Automaton.
Cover photo: Rob Shanahan
Bass Player (ISSN 1050-785X) is published 13 times a year, monthly plus a Holiday issue to follow the December issue, by
NewBay Media LLC, 28 East 28th Street, 12th floor, New York, NY 10016. Periodicals Postage Paid at New York, NY and at
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Send address changes to Bass Player, P.O. Box 2029 Langhorne, PA 19047-9957.
6
SOUNDROOM
58 12 RON JOHNSON
Anchoring a requiem with
Gregg Allman
14 IAN HILL Decades of
heaviness with Judas Priest
16 LYNN KELLER
The art of preparation with
School of Rock
18 RA DIAZ
Living the dream with
Suicidal Tendencies
TECH BENCH
GIG BAG ROUNDUP
40 We check out nine sturdy bags that will protect your basses, even when they
need to be gate-checked on a flight. By Rod C. Taylor
10 COMMUNITY
Lowdown, Dig My Rig,
the Real World,
Court of Opinion
22 NEW GEAR
Ibanez, Fender, Balaguer,
Bergantino
66 THE INNOVATORS
The late Tom Wheeler
44 SEREK Sacramento 4-string
48 THE INQUIRER
50 NEW! BEHIND THE BASS
Justin Meldal-Johnsen’s
Fender JMJ Road Worn
Mustang Bass
WOODSHED
STU HAMM
36 A unique solo-bass project taught Stu to let go of his perfectionism. By Chris Jisi
T W
20 BP RECOMMENDS
From the West Midlands to the world’s biggest stages with Spinal Tap to
Albania—finally, the #1 rock bass god tells his story. By Karl Coryat with Chris Jisi
S
MELISSA CASTRO
TABLE OF CONTENTS
LINK
FACE
D E PA RT M E N T S
TECH
M AY 2 0 1 8
46 OVATION Mod TX Collection
4-string
52 JAZZ CONCEPTS
Percy Heath’s moxy on
“Doxy”
56 BERKLEE BASS BABYLON
Jamming as a listening
exercise
bassplayer.com / m a y 2 0 1 8
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12/26/17 10:02 AM
Vol. 29 No. 5
May 2018
bassplayer.com
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CONTENT
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bassplayer.com/ m a y 2 0 1 8
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promise of the feel
North Hollywood, California . February 13th 5:58 PM
An acoustic instrument produces vibrations that resonate musically and
emotionally. Corey McCormick with Lukas Nelson & Promise of the
Real/Neil Young plays his MOD TX bass in the studio. This is when feel
matters most. When the notes are carefully curated. When the song
dictates everything else.
Ovation, innovation that promises effortless playability.
ovationguitars.com
© 2018 Drum Workshop, Inc. All rights reserved.
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TECH
PLAY
LEARN
C ommunity
FACE
LOWDOWN
COMMUNITY
LINK
Thank You, Tom
CHRIS JISI
IT’S ONE OF THE UNJUST REALITIES OF BUSY MODERN LIFE THAT WE OFTEN FORGET TO
give thanks to those upon whose shoulders we stand until they are gone. And so it is with BP founding editorial
director Tom Wheeler, who passed away suddenly in February, while visiting family on a break from his role as a
professor of journalism at the University of Oregon. Tom was already the widely respected editor of Guitar Player,
and the author of such seminal guitar tomes as The Guitar Book and American Guitars, when he helmed the launch
of BP as a quarterly (and soon monthly) magazine in Spring 1990. Eight years prior, I was a subscriber of GP who,
out of frustration at there not being regular bassist profiles, sent in an interview with my private teacher, Lincoln
Goines. Tom bought the piece and encouraged me to pitch and contribute more. Most significantly, he gave me a
phone tutorial on how to write such pieces—what to ask, what the format was—which set the template for my 35
years of writing about bass players. When BP spun off, he called to offer me a contributing editor position. Founding BP Editor Jim Roberts pays tribute to Jim in his Innovators column on page 66. I met Tom in person only once,
at a ’90s NAMM show, but his impact on me is indelible. Thank you, Tom, for your massive contributions to music
journalism, and to the benefit of bassists and guitarists everywhere. Your shoulders remain a firm ground for my
future reaches upward.
DIG MY RIG!
MY MAIN BASS (LEFT) IS A RARE ATLANSIA STEALTH 4-STRING,
which happens to be the same instrument that was tested in the Mar/Apr ’91 issue of
Bass Player. I front a Cars tribute band, so the red finish and ’80s vibe is perfect. People
always come up after shows and ask what it is. To the right is a Carvin LB75F that I play
only when I need to record a fretless part. In the back is my Frankenstein rig: Bugera
BTX36000 head, Warwick WCA408 4x8, and Ampeg BSE115 1x15. Between the 15
and the 8’s, it gives me everything I need. I nabbed the head and cabinets in an unusual
liquidation event—actually, they were free in exchange for services rendered. I can’t go
into details. — LU MPWARD A. FAT T
10
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THE REAL WORLD
Paul Anthony
Home base Crowthorne, Berkshire, England
Occupation Project finance & telecoms (“for my sins”)
Gigs Who Killed Nancy Johnson? (post-hardcore), 96 Decibels (poppy
punk), the Amphibious Vehicles (weird soundtrack-style material)
Basses Aria Pro II, Mike Lull JAXT4, Gibson Thunderbirds, Hamer FBIV;
Mike Lull Jeff Ament NRT5 on the way
Rig SansAmp RBI preamp into Matrix GT1000FX 2U power amp,
into two Hartke HyDrives (4x10/2x10) and a Barefaced Big One (Alex
Claber’s prototype #000, the first cabinet he built)
Effects Temple Audio Design Duo 17 dual-channel pedalboard with modded end panels for input/output and power, SansAmp BDDI Bass
Driver for low end, Tech 21 SansAmp GT2 tube amp emulator, SansAmp VT Bass DI or Boss ODB-3 overdrive
Join D’Addario’s
Players’ Circle for
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Strings, etc. Elixir Nanowebs, Dunlop Max-grip 1.14mm picks, Korg DTR tuner
Heroes & inspirations Geddy Lee, Stuart Hill, Mick Karn, Glen Matlock, Chris Ballew, Muzz Skillings
Contact Who Killed Nancy Johnson? is at wknj.co.uk and on Spotify, Amazon Music, and Apple Music
How did you come to play bass?
What lessons have you learned along the way?
What are your musical goals?
It’s a cliché, but I figured it would be easier than playing
I’ve had four surgeries for hand problems in the
Just to write, gig, and record—
guitar. When I started out, we were all terrible, but there
last five years, so take care of your hands. Don’t
and have fun doing it.
was only one bass player in my year at school. Win/win!
crack those knuckles, kids.
COURT OF OPINION
What’s more important to you in a bass: looks, or tone and playability?
Buying your ideal bass is like meeting your wife or husband. Initially,
Tone first. If it sounds great, I’m willing to overlook ergonomics/
you see them and think, Oh my god, yes. After that, the bass has to
function. Looks are last—if it looks great, it’s icing on the cake!
perform, as well, and make you want to stay with it—just like having
— DONAL D S H ANT Y J R.
something beyond looks in your other half. If the relationship (with a bass or
person) is based only on looks, it won’t be long before you want something
I play in a worship band. For that, I need no flash that would distract
better. —MI K E T HOMAS
from the band’s function, which is to point people to Christ. Even
playing other things like rock or blues, it’s more about the tone than
Anyone who says looks mean nothing is lying. Yes, tone comes
the appearance. — S COT T C ROSS
before everything, but what is it that tempts you to choose that
particular bass from the wall before all the others? It’s the same as
everything else in life you fall in love with: Ultimately, it’s what’s underneath that
matters, but you have to like the wrapper in the first place!
—A L E X B A KO NYVARI
If it doesn’t look good to you, it won’t feel right. Flash and function
go together for that extra enjoyment, hence a better performance. It’s
the same as a car: If it’s dirty, it’s just a car, but if it’s clean, you
actually enjoy driving it more. —T H E O GROBB E LAA R
I intentionally seek basses with specific looks. If a bass looks good
Sound and playability are first priority. I’ll take the instrument that has
and plays well, I plug it in to see how it sounds. I bought my current
both over something that’s more attractive. Then again, when you
two basses because of looks and playability. I never plugged them in
before buying, and honestly, I love them both. —GABE S P E NC E R
order custom, you can have all three!
— MI C H AE L ANT H ONY ST. ANTOI NE
I’ve been playing beat-up second-hand gear for 30 years, and no one
I always feel inspired by a bit of flash, be it a new pickguard or cool
ever said to me, “You’d sound better if your bass were pretty.” I like
knobs or a hip replacement bridge. If it makes me smile, that comes
my dirty gear and scratched-up basses. Don’t get me wrong—I’d love
through in my playing. — J OE I AQ U I N TO
to have a brand-new bass, but I’m poor, and I rock out just as hard with my
crappy gear. —BRIAN KENNEDY
Going by the look can be a big mistake. For years, I hated the shape
of the Fender Jazz and would not even consider playing one. After I
First, it has to grab my eye, and then the neck has to feel good. After
that, everything else can be adjusted to suit. If I don’t like the look, it
picked one up, I loved the sound. So, I couldn’t care less anymore
what the bass looks like. — E DDI E H OL L AND
ain’t gonna get used. —TRENT OLEKSUIK
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BASSNOTES
BASS NOTES
LINK
FACE
TECH
PLAY
LEARN
B
12
GREGG ALLMAN
Ron Johnson
On Recording Gregg Allman’s Southern Blood
BY JIMMY LESLIE
|
PHOTOGRAPHS BY CHRISTOPHER BRISCOE
“PLAYING BASS FOR GREGG ALLMAN WAS ALL
about listening to his voice, staying out of the way, and filling in holes where you found them,” says Ron Johnson, who
started touring with Allman’s band in 2013, and played on his
final live and studio albums. Southern Blood earned a Grammy
nomination for Best Americana Album, and it features mostly
covers handpicked by Allman, producer Don Was, and a few
bandmembers, including Johnson. They tracked on sacred
ground at FAME studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. Allman’s
voice drips with emotion, aware it’s his farewell studio recording. Johnson chooses foundation and counterpoint notes judiciously, allowing ample space for his hearty tone to underlie
the entire affair with subsonic soul shine. He sent a photo of
the Southern Blood bass ahead of being interviewed—it was a
character with a backstory.
That bass looks like it’s traveled the road to Mordor and
back. What the hell happened to it?
I’m a dedicated Moollon player because the basses are so
beautifully crafted by Young Joon Park, who treats each component like a little piece of art. But the guitar tech for the
Gregg Allman Band was a huge fan of classic American Fenders, and so was Gregg, so I couldn’t show up with a shiny new
Korean instrument. I decided to distress the bass myself. The
Moollon P Classic is essentially a reverse-engineered version
of a vintage Fender Precision Bass, so it’s coated in nitrocellulose, which is highly flammable. I held a lighter near it, and the
finish started to bubble, so I held it a little closer and—poof—
the whole bass ignited! There was already a big black spot happening, so I rotated it to get the flames swirling around just
right. After putting out the fire, I rubbed all the black ashes
from my weed ashtray into the exposed wood. Every day for
the next week I rubbed roasted chicken skin all over the bass,
so what you see in the photo is chicken fat and marijuana ashes
[laughs]. I put a sticker of the Black Power girl on there because
I wanted it to look like a bass you’d find in somebody’s closet
in Oakland. I even sanded down the little nubs on the Moollon’s headstock so no one could tell it wasn’t an old Fender.
What did Allman think of it?
He didn’t say anything until the last tour, when I came
clean about it. He said, “What, that’s not a Fender bass?” I
told him that modern Fenders are covered in a polyurethane
finish, which is like putting a condom on the wood. He understood that, and was like, “Oh wow, okay.”
How much bass input did he offer?
I always made sure to be super-prepared, so, not too
much—but he did buy me a fretless Fender Road Worn [Jazz
Bass] because he wanted fretless bass on some tunes in the
live set. I used it live for “Melissa” and a few other songs, but
I wound up using the Moollon P Classic with a foam muff at
the bridge under flatwound strings on every track of Southern
Blood. I was amazed by the massive bass sound Don Was got at
FAME, and apparently, so was he. When I tried a take of “Song
for Adam” using the fretless Fender, Don said, “We’ve already
got the best bass tone I’ve ever heard. I’ve been searching for
that my whole life. Why would you want to do away with it?”
Did you have a big rig going in a big room?
No. We tracked live as a band in the studio, but Don
had my little Aguilar head miked up in an isolation booth
that was only slightly larger than my cabinet. There was
simply some kind of magic happening down there in
Muscle Shoals.
What were you listening for mostly—the key to
making the whole Gregg Allman Band tick?
The sound of Gregg’s voice would tell me when to attack,
how long to sustain the note, and when to release it. There are
several slow songs on Southern Blood, and each note carries
such weight when you play a ballad. That was especially true
when we’d perform one everyone knows, such as “Melissa.”
You have to pay attention to each and every moment, because
each performance varied according to how Gregg was feeling
and breathing. I’d stress out about that tune the most, afraid
one wrong note would ruin a sacred moment for everybody.
I’d compare the experience of playing in his band to surfing.
We’d all try to catch the same wave and roll with it together.
It was an amazing ride. BP
bassplayer.com / m a y 2 0 1 8
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LISTEN
i
INFO
Gregg Allman, Southern
Blood [2017, Rounder]
Gregg Allman Live: Back
to Macon, GA [2015,
Rounder]
Bass Moollon P Classic,
Moollon J Classic
Strings Elixir Nanoweb
Light (.045, .065, .080,
EQUIP
.100)
Rig Aguilar Tone Hammer
500 head, Aguilar DB 412
cabinet
Effects Aguilar Octamizer,
Aguilar Filter Twin
• Watch Johnson performing a funky version of
“Whipping Post” with the
CONNECT
Gregg Allman Band.
012_bas0518_bassnotes.indd 13
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PLAY
LEARN
B
TECH
JUDAS PRIEST
FACE
Ian Hill
Low-End Firepower
LINK
BY FREDDY VILLANO
|
BASS NOTES
JUST BEFORE GOING TO PRESS WITH THIS STORY,
Judas Priest announced that guitarist Glenn Tipton would be
bowing out of the band’s upcoming tour due to the progression
of Parkinson’s disease. “He fought tooth and nail to get himself
up to his own very high standards throughout band rehearsals,
as he did before the last tour, but sadly it didn’t happen this time
around,” reports Ian Hill. With Tipton’s departure from live performance (he’ll continue to write and record with the band, as
Andy Sneap takes over live), the 67-year-old Hill becomes Judas
Priest’s last remaining original member since the band’s 1970
inception in West Bromwich, England.
Hill started out on upright bass as a teenager, learning from
his father, who played in jazz combos and dance bands. Unfortunately, his dad died when Ian was just 15, so that was the end
of his instruction on that instrument. He picked up the bass
guitar because he thought it was easier to play, and he started
listening to blues-based artists like John Mayall, Fleetwood Mac,
Free, and Cream. “I basically taught myself,” he recalls. He cites
Jack Bruce as his all-time top inspiration. “He was so adventurous on some of those live Cream albums. He did stuff that was
like, How the hell did he do that? And he made simple bass lines
so heavy. The amount of noise Cream made for a three-piece was
unbelievable, and a lot of that was the fullness of the bass and
Bruce’s technique.”
Firepower is Judas Priest’s 18th studio album; all of them feature Hill holding down the bottom end. Arguably, Hill’s fullness
and simplicity is what allowed Priest guitarists Tipton, KK Downing, and now Richie Faulkner to carve out Priest’s signature twinguitar attack. After 48 years, Hill doesn’t get enough credit for
Andy Sneap on Ian Hill’s Firepower Tone
“With the bass, we went straight into the DI input on an API 3124 preamp and monitored it with a SansAmp plug-in when tracking. During the mix, we tried all sorts of
re-amping through various rigs, but we kept coming back to UAD’s B-15N plug-in—it
just seemed to fit right with the guitars. The bass signal also has Waves C4 multiband
compression before the amp sim, and then we went out of Pro Tools and compressed
through an Empirical Labs EL8 Distressor and added EQ—mainly around 900Hz—on
the SSL [mixing board]. We also used an old Roland Dimension D chorus just underneath the main signal to add some ’80s vibe.”
14
being the backbone of one of heavy metal’s most enduring bands.
His calm, cool, selfless demeanor—which is completely reflected
in his bass playing—remains the perfect foundation on which this
metal monument continues to stand.
Before going on tour, do you ever have to re-learn parts
that you’ve recently recorded?
That’s what I’m doing right now [laughs]. I’m going through
the new songs, and some of the more obscure older ones, that we
might be doing on this upcoming tour. You have to get it between
your ears, don’t you?
Judas Priest sounds like a band that isn’t weighed down
by its past. Firepower sounds completely relevant.
I think that has a lot to do with the producers we used this
time around. We used producers for the first time since Jugulator
[1997, SPV/Steamhammer]. We’ve pretty much done it ourselves
with an engineer since then, but we decided to get Tom Allom
back involved. [Allom produced Priest throughout its commercially prolific ’80s period.]
What did he bring to the table that was different from
producing yourselves?
It’s a third party, and it’s great having a third party, because
they see the music differently than you do—especially for Richie,
Glenn, and Rob [Halford, lead vocals], who write the material.
They have an idea of how [the songs] should be, and they strive
to get that, but then you get a third party in there who suggests
something a bit different.
What about Andy Sneap?
We thought it might be a good idea to get in touch with someone who is up to speed with the newer outfits. So, we asked
Andy if he wouldn’t mind working with Tom and vice versa—
and they loved each other. They got on like a house fire [laughs].
It was a bit of a dream team, with Colonel Tom directing things
in the background and Andy up front coming up with ideas and
recording techniques.
One thing that sticks out is how much more present
the bass is on this record.
The previous time I worked with Tom, I wasn’t using a
Spector bass. As soon as I plugged it into the desk and played a
few notes, they both loved the sound as it was. And that’s how
bassplayer.com / m a y 2 0 1 8
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INFO
LISTEN
i
Judas Priest, Firepower
[2018, Epic]
Bass Spector Ian Hill
Euro4LX Artist Series
012_bas0518_bassnotes.indd 15
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they’ve got something that’s approaching a complete song,
Scott [Travis, drums] and I will get a bunch of them and
start putting down drum patterns and bass lines. Then
we go back and forth a few times until we have the structure of the song.
I went back and listened to some early Priest and
was captivated by how adventurous the band was in
the ’70s.
There’s a lot of experimentation, musically, on the
early albums. We all had our own influences, and they
were all progressive rock and Cream, Hendrix. We were
brought up on this stuff, and it rubbed off on our earlier
efforts—but that all fell by the wayside as we evolved
as a band and we started to get more song-oriented and
structured.
Do you have any recollection of what it was like
working with Deep Purple bassist Roger Glover, who
produced 1977’s Sin After Sin?
He gave me a few pointers and toned me down a little.
He’d say things like, “That’s a bit busy, Ian—can you play
straight through that bit?”—which became something of a
trademark for me during the ’80s. But my philosophy, now
that I’ve matured, is that there’s no real point in doing too
much, because it will detract from the song. We do what’s
best for the song, and that’s what we do. BP
Strings DR Strings Black
Beauties & Red Devils
(.040–.105)
Picks Dunlop Max Grip
.73mm
• Read BP’s 2014 interview
with Ian Hill.
• Get updates on Judas
Priest tour dates.
CONNECT
it went down—I went straight into the desk. No amps, no
speakers, just straight in, and they re-amped afterward
through a processor [see sidebar].
Engineers often have their own little secrets, too.
They certainly do. But I think the reason the bass sticks
out a little more this time is not that it’s louder, but that
the guitars aren’t as bassy. They’re crunchier, and it left a
bigger space for the bass to stand out more.
In “Never the Heroes,” you can really hear the
quality of your tone.
The long, steady rhythms were Andy’s idea. He said,
“Use a heavy pick, and play it open.” You get all that attack,
along with a lot of fret rattling, but it adds to the character of the sound. Before that, I had been dampening the
strings and using light picks.
How do you respond to feedback in the studio?
Are you interested in input?
Absolutely. We’re all of the same mind. If anyone comes
up with an idea, we’ll give it a go. If anyone can come up
with an idea to improve my sound or a piece that I’m putting down, I’m all for it.
What is the process like for you in terms of crafting bass lines?
Glenn and Richie formulate things on their own to
start with. Rob’s always got lyrics; he’s very prolific. When
bassplayer.com/may2018
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BASS NOTES
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SCHOOL OF ROCK, DIANA ROSS, RITA COOLIDGE
Lynn Keller Always Focused, Always Prepared
BY E.E. BRADMAN
|
PHOTOGRAPH BY ILAN.ME
GROWING UP IN CHICAGO IN THE 1960S, LYNN
intent—is important to me, and that has transferred to my bass
Keller got to see an exemplary music career up close: Her father
playing. Playing flute has given me a keen melodic sense, as well.
was a professional saxophonist and singer who doubled on
How did you begin playing bass?
flute and clarinet—and owned a company that did payroll for
In college, a friend asked me to play bass in her band; her
talent, as well as taxes for musicians. Over the past five decades,
boyfriend was a guitar and bass nut. At every rehearsal, she
Keller has parlayed the family blend of musicality and profesbrought me a different bass, and I would just practice and work.
sionalism into a juicy, multi-genre career,
You studied composition, too.
logging millions of miles with Diana Ross,
I earned a degree in theory and comthe Fifth Dimension, Michelle Shocked, and
position,
and my applied instrument was
INFO
Oleta Adams, doubling as musical director
flute. In school, I was practicing flute like a
Basses MTD Lynn Keller
for Rita Coolidge, Nell Carter, and Jackie
maniac and then playing bass gigs at night.
Signature 532-24 5-string
DeShannon, and playing in the orchestra
You’ve worked with so many great
(fretted and fretless),
pit for Broadway shows like Leap of Faith,
singers. What’s the best way to learn
KYDD Carry-On electric
Sister Act, Little Shop of Horrors, and Mask.
how to play with vocalists?
upright
Her current road gig, with Andrew Lloyd
Listen to how other bass players supWebber’s hit musical School of Rock, introport vocalists. Pay attention to dynamics
duces her bass playing to a new generation
and the big picture within the song. I’m
Rig TecAmp Puma 900
of fans who have no idea she was once a
blessed to work with so many artists who
head, XS112 Classic 1x12
seventh-grade flute student.
are unique and special.
Strings Thomastik-Infeld
What do you think they see in you?
Jazz (.043–.118)
How does being a flutist enhance your
I’m excited about the music, and I want
Cables Mogami
overall musicality?
to make it the best it can be. I know how
Other Comfort Strapp,
It has taught me to play with emotion.
to make music speak, and I know how to
Peak music stands
Expressing myself—and the composer’s
make it speak from the bass up.
EQUIP
i
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How did you transition into being a musical director?
I was always organized—I’d come to rehearsals more prepared than anyone else—and people
ended up turning to me because I seemed to have
a leader backbone. I hate being in situations where
people are unprepared, and I know I can contribute in that way.
Does being extra-prepared help with preshow jitters?
That’s something I’ve always battled, but staying
focused helps. I’ll tell you one of my favorite Diana
Ross stories: In 1997, three years after I’d last played
with Diana, I had already become the full-time bass
player with Rita Coolidge, and we were in London
for a month at the Green Room. On our next-to-last
evening there, I got a call from Diana’s bass player
asking if I could sub for him on the rest of the tour.
Half an hour later, Diana’s manager called saying
that they needed me to be in Vienna the next day.
I couldn’t, though, because I had one more Saturday night with Rita. I arrived in Vienna on Sunday
morning to see the music director standing outside
with a Walkman and two thick books of charts. I
looked at the books and realized some of the tunes
had charts in two or three different keys. After I
alphabetized them all, I asked for a set list for that
night’s show, which just happened to be in a stadium. The set list wasn’t ready in time, so I ended
up going onstage with two crew members sitting
on the floor around me: As the MD called out the
next tune, they handed me a chart in the right key.
And you know what? I played flawlessly that night.
Talk about nerve-racking! You’ve musicdirected the Movieguide awards in L.A. since
2004. How crazy is it?
Again, it requires a lot of focus. I wear a headset as they’re calling the show and letting me know
when we’re getting up to a cue, and then I conduct
the orchestra as the award winners come to the stage.
What kind of music?
Movie themes I’ve transcribed and arranged
into sections that can be played by just five musicians, along with my own original cues. We’re playing about 45 small pieces of music, and there’s
a tremendous amount of preparation for that.
When things happen during the show, we have
to punt; I also have a microphone so I can guide
the band. It’s pretty involved, but it’s rewarding
to hear my original stuff being played alongside
these movie themes. This year, we’re also doing
the theme for Despicable Me, which is a blast.
The entire ensemble is five people?
Five people: me, two keyboard players, guitar,
and drums. We can sound like a full orchestra.
When you’re playing a Broadway show every
night, how do you stay excited about the music?
On a lot of the Broadway work I do, I get to be a
little more creative than the average player, and the
music directors I’ve worked for have been very supportive; they enjoy what I bring to the table. Also,
it’s easier to do a show eight times a week if you
really enjoy the music. You’re doing yourself a disservice if you take a show and don’t love the music.
How would you describe the bass tone most
Broadway sound people want?
Most of them want a Fender or Sadowsky sound,
but as they’ve gotten more comfortable with my
MTD, they love it.
After owning several custom MTD basses,
you now have a signature model.
These basses changed my life. They allow me to
express myself without struggling with the instrument’s size, shape, weight, or balance—and with
absolutely no compromise in tone on the low B.
These basses sound larger than life.
When you’re playing in the pit, do you miss
interacting with the audience?
I do. I’m a very animated bass player, and I’m
the same way in the orchestra pit. When you’re
onstage, you hope your presence brings something
to the audience that makes them feel something. I
hope I’m doing the same thing from the pit, even
though they’re not seeing me.
What’s one of your favorite moments in
School of Rock?
Getting up on the podium where the kids’ band
is playing and seeing Theodora Silverman, the brilliant 11-year-old who’s my little female counterpart onstage. She’s fearless, and she’s up there night
after night doing her thing. I don’t know if she’ll
grow up to be a bass player, but man, she’s doing
a beautiful job.
What would you tell a young person who
wants the career you have?
Read music. Write charts. Read notes rather than
tablature. Be responsible. Return calls and e-mails.
Think about the people who have helped you out,
and return the favor. Play every style of music. Play
in every key. Learn to memorize songs. Learn the
lyrics. Make sure your gear is always working. And
always have a pencil with an eraser! BP
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BASS NOTES
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i
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Ra Diaz Searing Chilean Bass
LISTEN
SUICIDAL TENDENCIES
Suicidal Tendencies, Get
BY JON D’AURIA
|
PHOTOGRAPH BY MELISSA CASTRO
Your Fight On! [2018,
Suicidal]
18
on their radar. It was only a short time after moving
to Los Angeles in 2013 that he found himself crying
from joy in the middle of the 405 freeway when he
received the call that Suicidal Tendencies wanted him
to join the band.
Now Diaz is a full member of the legendary outfit,
and he’s already made his mark on 2016’s World Gone
Mad and the upcoming Get Your Fight On! EP. The latter
features a bass version of the title track, which showcases Diaz’s melodic side and also his ability to play
relentlessly fast alongside Suicidal’s current drummer
Dave Lombardo (Slayer, Misfits). With a new full-length
album wrapped and set for release this year, and with a
long tour ahead, Diaz still possesses all of the fandom
and passion for the band that he’s always had. Only
now he’s one of them.
Bass Spector Coda RAD
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GROWING UP IN THE CITY OF VIÑA DEL MAR,
Chile, where the local folklorico music focuses on acoustic guitar and piano, Ra Diaz had to dig through racks of
tapes at his local music store to find imports from rock
bands that he heard about from other kids. Thanks to
a few hot leads, he quickly became obsessed with the
Red Hot Chili Peppers, Infectious Grooves, and his alltime favorite, Suicidal Tendencies. He buried himself in
their music, woodshedding their entire thrash-punk catalogue and studying every note of such previous bassists
as Robert Trujillo, Josh Paul, and Thundercat.
In 2010 he decided to move to Mexico City to advance
his music career, but he delayed his departure when he
found out Suicidal was playing in Chile the day he was
set to leave. He waited for the band at the airport and
hung out with them every moment he could, just to get
Rig Gallien-Krueger
1001RB head, Darkglass
Electronics Microtubes
900 head, two GallienKrueger NEO410 cabinets
Strings D’Addario PRO
Steels XL (.045–.130)
Other D’Addario Chromatic Pedal Tuner
bassplayer.com / m a y 2 0 1 8
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F
3/14/18 1:02 PM
Tell us about your playing on “Get Your Bass On.”
My goal was to make that song sound totally different, but still sound like Suicidal Tendencies. The
beginning part is a weird combination of chords
where I change the root notes and use harmonics.
Mike [Muir, singer] kept telling me that I had to
find the “Ra Land” and to let it all out. I ended up
using a lot of tracks of chords and harmonization.
For the main phrase, I’m doing some modal stuff,
and I just went off on it.
Did you feel pressure following all the great
bass players who preceded you in the band?
It’s just such an honor. Robert Trujillo has always
been one of my bass heroes, and what Josh Paul did
with them was amazing—not only his playing but
his sound. Thundercat is unreal; he’s like the most
amazing bass player ever. I’m lucky to call them all
friends now. The hard part is to remember that I
have to be myself: Especially when I go in to record,
I think about what Robert or Thundercat would do,
and I block myself. This has been big in me finding my voice.
What kind of tone do you go for with ST?
It’s very bright, but at the same time it has a lot of low end. I play a 5-string,
and while I don’t use the B string a ton, I get a lot of lows with my bass and amp.
I change my strings every two shows so that I get lots of treble from them, and
then I don’t mess much with my EQ. We make sure I’m heard alongside the two
guitars. I try to keep it simple and just trust my gear. I don’t even use any pedals
live. If I need a little more gain or a heavier tone, I get that with my hands.
Which techniques do you use?
For the most part it’s a lot of fingerstyle stuff at really fast tempos, and a
lot of double-thumb slapping and double-plucking parts. Sometimes when we
play a long set, my hands get tired, so I’ll slap 16th-notes instead of using my
fingers. I’ve had tendinitis in both arms, so it’s important for me to warm up a
lot before I play to pull all that off.
How has your playing changed since you joined?
Even though I was never the type of player who likes to show off, now that
I’m in the band, I don’t play anything that doesn’t need to be played. When I
first joined, everyone told me that this is my moment and I have to go up there
and make a name for myself. But people are going to the show to see the band
and hear the songs, not to see me and hear me playing all over the place. I just
want to go out and play shows and make people happy. I don’t need anything
else. I’m not trying to be the best bass player on earth; I’m just trying to be the
right player for this band. BP
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012_bas0518_bassnotes.indd 19
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BASS NOTES
BP RECOMMENDS
CHARLES MINGUS
LIVE AT MONTREUX 1975
[Eagle]
In July 1975, Charles Mingus took the group
that had recently recorded his Changes One
and Changes Two albums to the Montreux Jazz
Festival. The lineup included tenor saxophonist George Adams,
trumpeter Jack Walrath, pianist Don Pullen, and drummer Dannie
Richmond, a mainstay of the bands led by the great bassist/composer for more than 20 years. For their performance on the festival’s closing night, captured on this two-CD set, they played
three tunes from the Changes albums plus versions of “Goodbye
Pork Pie Hat” and “Take the ‘A’ Train” that featured guest artists Gerry Mulligan on baritone sax and Benny Bailey on trumpet. There’s plenty of strong Mingus bass playing to admire here,
from his gutsy intro to “Devil Blues” and his fiery solo on “Free
Cell Block F, ’Tis Nazi USA” to his inventive and hard-swinging
work throughout the 12-minute jam on “‘A’ Train,” which constantly pushes the other players with its rhythmic drive and emotional intensity. — JIM ROB E RTS
QUICKSAND
INTERIORS [Epitaph]
Before Sergio Vega took over the Deftones
bass reins from the late Chi Cheng, he
was one-fourth of the trailblazing posthardcore outfit Quicksand. Now, 22 years after
its second album, the New York quartet has made fans happy by
releasing a third. Vega’s thick and heavy tone is the pulse under
straightahead beats and careening guitars that have been waiting two decades to be unleashed. — J ON D’AU RI A
MONONEON
I DON’T CARE TODAY (ANGELS
& DEMONS IN LO-FI) [MonoNeon]
Although he’s mysterious by nature, three
things are now certain about Dywane
“MonoNeon” Thomas Jr.: Nobody sounds
20
The Breeders; Josephine Wiggs,
third from left
like the Memphis musical mastermind, he is jaw-droppingly good
at bass, and he is wildly prolific. His most recent album delivers 18 new funk-fueled tracks that feature slapping, popping,
Funkadelic-style vocals, and flocks of neck-snapping licks and runs.
It’s hard to properly classify a record like this, but it feels damn
good and we can’t stop listening to it. — J O N D ’AU R I A
LEON BRIDGES
GOOD THING [Columbia]
Soul revivalists were like hobos on a ham sandwich over Leon Bridges’ 2015 debut Coming
Home, and with good reason: Channeling the
spirit of Sam Cooke, and backed by a stable of
stellar musicians (including ex-White Denim multi-instrumentalist Austin Jenkins and fellow Fort Worth fixture Cliff Wright
on bass), Bridges kicked fresh new life into the soul tropes of the
’60s. That mission expands on Good Thing, a wide-open canvas
of R&B, hip-hop, dancefloor hijinx, and quiet-storm balladry.
Jenkins is still in the fold (lending guitar and bass to the slowloping “Shy” and the disco-fied “You Don’t Know”), joined by L.A.
ace Nate Mercereau (on the Delfonics-like “Bet Ain’t Worth the
Hand,” just for starters), King Garbage’s Zach Cooper (on the
broken-beat funky “Lions”) and Andrew Skates (playing upright
bass on the misty, mystical closer “Georgia to Texas”). Think Bridges
is done yet? Not even close. — B I LL M U R PH Y
THE BREEDERS
ALL NERVE [4AD]
On the Breeders’ first album in ten years,
Josephine Wiggs finds a magical balance
between simplicity, groove, and rugged,
beautifully unpolished tone. These veterans
know the importance of an album as a whole, and thanks to the
cohesiveness of Wiggs’ playing, All Nerve flows seamlessly. Bass
standouts include her gain-fueled riffs on “MetaGoth,” “Skinhead
#2,” “Wait in the Car,” and “Walking With a Killer.” A great indiealternative listen from front to back. —J O N D ’AU R I A
bassplayer.com / m a y 2 0 1 8
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SQUIRREL NUT ZIPPERS
replaced by Anderson Quintero. Tomaselli leads his band through
a mix of straightforward rockers and deep psychedelic journeys,
and he flaunts cool soloing on “Spanish Flowers.” — J ON D ’AU R I A
BEASTS OF BURGUNDY
[Southern Broadcasting]
Jimbo Mathus started feeling the itch to
reconvene the Zippers in 2016, and thank
Papa Legba he did—Beasts of Burgundy
flows liberally with all the New Orleans-style swagger a ninepiece swing band can muster, which is to say, a lot. At the core of
the rhythm section is Tamara Nicolai, who brings Cuban-style
chops to the infectiously groovy “West of Zanzibar” and ruthless
precision to the punches and slides of the spooky-sounding title
track. It takes an acrobatic versatility to keep pace with the gearswitching whims of the Zippers, and Nicolai handles the task with
all the sure-footed heft of a first-class jazzbo. —BILL MU RP H Y
EELS
THE DECONSTRUCTION
[E Works/PIAS]
It’s been four years since we last heard from
Mark Oliver Everett, but that doesn’t mean
he’s been idle. Besides appearing in several
episodes of Judd Apatow’s web series Love, he was knee-deep in
crafting 15 new songs, complete with orchestral interludes, for
Eels’ latest album—a roller-coaster ride of angst, longing, and
redemption. Kelly Logsdon (a.k.a. Koool G Murder) is his usual
stalwart presence on bass, from the tic-tac sound of “Rusty Pipes”
to the upbeat, head-nodding “Today Is the Day,” where Logsdon
drives the rhythm and anchoring melody with uncorked enthusiasm. Further on, “You Are the Shining Light” hits all the right
garage-psych notes, while “Be Hurt” is a Stax ballad hidden in an
indie-rock lament, with Logsdon going for Duck Dunn-ish economy and feel. — B I L L MU RP H Y BP
PHILM
TIME BURNER [philmofficial.com]
Pancho Tomaselli has made a career of stepping in to back legendary bands like Tower
Of Power and War, but to hear him in his
own element, check out his hard-rocking trio
Philm, whose latest release finds original drummer Dave Lombardo
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BALAGUER
Hyperion 4-string
Balaguer’s new beast boasts a mahogany
body, three-piece mahogany neck with
graphite reinforcement rods, ebony
fingerboard, pearloid dot inlays, 22
J-style humbuckers, two volume knobs,
and a blend. Choose from satin silverburst
(shown) or satin trans black finishes, or pick
with a Semi-Custom series. IBANEZ
SRMS800 Basses
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FACE
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medium-jumbo stainless steel frets, two
Street $1,000
Contact balaguerguitars.com
Looking for a fanned-fret/multi-scale
option without breaking the bank? Ibanez’s
SRMS800, adorned with black matte
hardware and a Mono-Rail VS Bridge,
features a 34.5"–33.5" scale length, poplar
burl/mahogany body, five-piece jatoba/
walnut neck, panga panga fingerboard,
medium frets, and custom fanned inlays.
There’s also Ibanez Custom Electronics
3-band EQ with EQ bypass switch and
mid frequency switch, and Bartolini BH2
pickups.
Street $950
Contact ibanez.com
FENDER
’51 Telecaster PJ Bass
This time-machine-approved wonder
brings the thunder with a host of vintage
stylings—ash body, 20 frets, dot inlays,
41.3mm bone nut, a HiMass Vintage bridge
with nickel-plated brass saddles, as well as
an American Vintage “’63 P-Bass”-shaped
profile, and a modern 9.5" fingerboard
radius. Two pickups get the job done: a
’60s Jazz Bass single-coil at the bridge and
’60s P-Bass split-coil in the middle.
Street $2,000
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BERGANTINO
HG410 4x10 cab
With its tweeter and four 10" neo woofers—
including one in the rear, to create a
broader sound field—this diminutive (31" x
18.5" x 15") monster rocks 700 watts at 4Ω,
with a 42Hz–15kHz frequency response. The
sealed cabinet, made of lightweight Italian
poplar with a Baltic birch baffle, is covered
in black Bronco Tolex. A high-impact metal
grille helps ensure durability. Best of all, it
weighs only 47 pounds.
Street $1,600
Contact bergantino.com
22
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CS
DEREK SMALLS
Christian MTV with worship-rockers Lambsblood. But embarrassingly, it ended with neither him, nor ’Blood, nor Tap having
been heard from in years.
Spinal Tap would regroup several times: in 1992, for the futuroretrospective Break Like the Wind album and tour; in 2000, for
an American tour that included a Carnegie Hall appearance; and
once again in 2009, for what might end up being a farewell to
the band’s multiple farewell tours. Still, with each Tap relaunch,
Derek’s people wouldn’t return our calls. So imagine our delight
when we learned that the elusive mastermind behind “Big Bottom”
Fret b o ard Feud
SMALLS & LEAGUE DO BATTLE ON “WHEN MEN DID ROCK”
BY CHRIS JISI
AS ONE MIGHT EXPECT,
Snarky Puppy bassist/
bandleader Michael League
was “quite chuffed” to be a
part of Derek Smalls’ solo
album Smalls Change. League
first met Smalls on a 2016
Paul Allen cruise featuring
the brightest (and loudest)
from the fields of entertainment and science, for which
Snarky Puppy was the house
band. Smalls next sat in for
an encore of Spinal Tap’s “Big
Bottom” at a Puppy show in
New Orleans. Offers League,
“After that, Derek contacted me
and said, ‘Hey mate, I’m making
this record, and I want you to
do a bass duet with me.’ And
I immediately thought, This
is the most important project I’ve ever done! My whole
life as a musician has led up
to me doing a bass duet with
Derek Smalls!”
The plucky pairing opens
the album’s final track, “When
Men Did Rock,” for which
League played his Fodera
Monarch strung as a tenor bass (ADGC), recorded
direct through a Jule Monique preamp/DI.
Although they recorded their parts separately,
the spirit of good-natured one-upmanship is
clearly in place. Example 1 shows the track’s
28
Smalls starts the exchange by quoting a theme
from Nikolai RimskyKorsakov’s 1888 symphonic suite Scheherazade,
Opus 35, in bars 1 and
2, ending with an edgy
trill and slide-off. League
answers with ornamental
arpeggios, coloring the E
minor harmony with an F
Lydian flavor in bar 4 and
a V-chord cadenza utilizing the B half-step/wholestep diminshed scale in bar
5. Listen for how he dramatically increases and
decreases the tempo of his
phrases. Smalls replies in
bar 7 with similarly paced
arpeggios of his own,
before restating his Scheherazade quote an octave
higher. League closes matters in bar 12 with reverse
arpeggios that culminate
in an A chord (plucked via
thumb, index, and middle
finger, low-to-high). He
then climbs an F7 chord
two notes at a time and arrives at an E7 chord,
which is meant to serve as the V chord setting up
the track’s main key of A minor (at 1:44). In one
final flourish, he descends via alternating E and
Bb triads in bar 15, ending on an E power chord.
Michael League (L) and Derek throw down
first 16 bars. The passage is rubato, so we’ve
added the implied bar lines, meters, and chord
changes. Additionally, League’s parts are written
and tabbed for standard 4-string, generally an
octave down from where he played, unless noted.
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had completed a ten-month studio marathon to record his first
solo album in over 40 years, Smalls Change (Meditations Upon
Ageing). Featuring a stellar array of guests—from Keith Richards
to Donald Fagan to Steve Vai to Larry Carlton to Joe Satriani to
Dweezil Zappa, plus an historic bass duet with Michael League—it
Em
Em
Rubato
On cue
3
ML:
TR
14 121412101210 9 10 9
9 12 11 9 9 10 9
7 10
12
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5
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11 14 13 11 10
B7
3
On cue
DS:
9
9 12 9
9
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3
13 12 10 9
3
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18
16
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EX. 1
3
S
7
Fmaj7#11
(an octave lower than played)
3
DS:
7
had “Bass Player cover story” written all over it. And, right on
cue, Derek’s publicist began pinging us on social media, sending
e-mails, and literally telegraphing to us that his client was available to speak. Finally, the Derek Smalls story would be told. Where
Continued
even to begin?
3
17
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3
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Em
3
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17
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Em(maj7)
On cue(an octave lower than played)
11 17 1614 16
Em
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A7
(as played)
11
TR
S
19
17
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F7
14
(an octave lower than played)
12
13
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13
ML:
16
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6
(as played)
9
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16 13
E5
14
14
15
15 12
13
13
9
9
11
10
7
8
8
9
7
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CS
DEREK SMALLS
Derek Albion Smalls was born a small child on April 1, 1941,
in Nilford, on the River Null in England’s West Midlands. His
father, a professional telephone-handset sanitizer, had to raise
Derek after his mother left to play trombone with a touring dance
band. When Derek was 17 he enrolled at the London School of
Design, more interested in the school’s initials than art, and connected with some musicians. He picked up the bass and joined
a ska band, but everything changed in 1967 when he answered
Spinal Tap’s bass player wanted flyer. And the rest, as they say,
is proverbial rock-god history.
Already a hero among fans of the Old Wave of British Heavy
Metal (OWOBHM), Smalls and his longtime bandmates (singer/
guitarist David St. Hubbins and guitarist/singer Nigel Tufnel)
became household names with the smash-hit 1984 rockumentary
This Is Spinal Tap. The film is reviled by the band—“We call it the
hatchet job,” Smalls snarls—but it gave the world an intimate look
at the sordid, often seamy underbelly of a major touring rock act
firing on all, or at least some, cylinders. Turbulent times followed,
and after his brief stint rocking for Christ in Lambsblood, Derek
slowed down. His bio after the early 1990s is spotty; he wrote
commercial jingles, served as a judge on the Netherlands’ reality
competition show RokStarz (before the program was retoooled
as Tomorrow’s HipHop Hero), and followed a friend’s near-deathmetal band, Chainsaw Vermin, in Albania. Along the way he battled internet addiction and lost a modest fortune in his girlfriend’s
tech startup, macrame.com.
Which brings us to Smalls’ current role as a solo artist. Smalls
Change is an epic journey through medical procedures, septuagenarian sex, and other senior moments, featuring wall-to-wall
orchestrations that would make Queen or ELO blush. Truth be
told, given Derek’s previous silence, we expected a gruff, semireluctant interview; we thought he might attack younger players on the scene like Gene Simmons, or exhibit contempt for the
latest bass trends—but he waved away our prompts for sensational soundbites. “If it isn’t moving forward, it’s moving backward, so good on all of them,” he affirms. It turns out, amid all the
onstage posturing, pointing, and well-documented pants-stuffing,
at heart Derek Smalls is a thoughtful, impeccably mannered gentleman who loves to talk about rock & roll bass and All Things Loud.
You’ve created some the loudest music ever. How is it possible that you can still hear interview questions?
I have always tried to stand far enough away from my amp,
and also from our own drummer, for protective purposes. A lot
of bass players like to stand right up next to the drummer. That
was never for me. “Don’t stand too close to the drummer” is
always good advice.
We music journalists are having a hard time pigeonholing your new album’s genre.
The vision of the record was to both reach higher and reach
lower at the same time—to see how far I could push the boundaries
30
before I hit the wall. The walls are beyond the boundaries; that’s
why the boundaries are inside the walls. So I went grander. All of
these orchestral textures that we would never look at or listen to
in Tap, they just opened the door for me, or at least the window.
But I can understand why pigeonholing this record would be difficult. You would need more pigeons.
And it was all made possible by the British Fund for
Ageing Rockers?
This is a fairly large project, so it took a grant from people who
saw that I still had something to say—and that it needed to be
said—and, having been said, it needed to be heard—and, having
been heard, it didn’t need to be said anymore.
“When Men Did Rock” is notable for your bass duet with
Michael League. Did you and Michael record your tracks
together or separately?
We recorded separately. Michael is a world traveler, as you
know; I think he was in Turkey, or he was doing something with a
turkey. I would hear what he did, and then I would answer him. It’s
either a duet or a duel. There’s one letter of difference; you decide.
At first I wasn’t sure who was playing which part. Then
it became clear.
It’s really obvious, isn’t it? In that particular case, obviousness is a virtue.
Songs like “Butt Call” strike the perfect balance between
mature, tasteful restraint and total, abject excess. How did
you hit that exact sweet spot?
I think that’s where I live. That’s where Derek goes if left to his
own device, or devices. There’s no high without a low. It’s the low
that makes the high, and vice- … and the other way.
In the video for the title song, you’re playing your
“dollar-sign bass.” Who built that?
Tobias Guitars, for the Break Like the Wind tour, before they
sold out to the now-bankrupt Gibson. It’s a great bass because it
looks like it’s a bit heavy, but it’s actually quite lightweight—especially given that it has two necks, which are identical.
That must come in handy.
It does, in odd, unpredictable, and surprising ways.
For example?
Ways that would surprise you.
Someone told me “Gummin’ the Gash” is about a senior
sex act—I thought it was about teenagers cutting themselves.
No, no, no. I would never write a song about that. That’s
distasteful.
Your singing on the record is admirably low in pitch. Have
you always been interested in creating bass frequencies?
It seems to be where my body resonates. I’ve done high parts;
there’s a song on Break Like the Wind, “Cash on Delivery,” where I’m
singing a bit high. But that’s where my ear goes, and where my ear
goes, my fingers and voice follow. My ear always goes down, and
I’ve never said, “Here, come, let’s go the other way, ear.”
David and Nigel are conspicuously absent from the
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CS
DEREK SMALLS
all-star guest list. Or you on good or bad terms with them?
Yes, I would say I’m on good or bad terms with them. It fluctuates. With most bands, they’ll get together and they’ll bicker,
they’ll break up, and maybe they’ll get back together for the dosh
[money]. And then they’ll bicker and break up again. Tap was
different: We never bickered. We would just sort of move away
from each other, like celestial bodies that had run out of gravity.
And when we got more gravity, we got back together. Newton, I
think, tells us that if you run out of gravity in one place, there’s
more gravity someplace else—so some other band would come
together while, or maybe because, we were breaking up. It was
almost like physics.
That’s literally heavy.
It’s too heavy, really. We should put it down. But I do hear from
Nigel from time to time. He’s deep into his animal husbandry
project. He was trying to breed miniature horses for a while, and
now he’s on to miniature livestock of other kind. He’s hit a bit of
a stumbling block, because the goats he’s been breeding are now
too small to milk, and he’s not sure what to do. And I hear from
David in the oddest way—I get post [mail] from him on occasion,
and it’s just full of Chinese pictograms, which I can’t make out.
How much of a hand did you have in writing “Big Bottom”?
I had a significant hand in writing the riff, which is the centerpiece of the song. The lot of us were about the table when the
lyrics were being bashed out, and I was there. I may have come
up with the concept, just because I was looking for a way to have
the bass step forward at some point in the band. People have said
to me, “You put the bass on the map with that song,” although I
said, “I couldn’t even find the bass on a map, so I don’t know what
you’re talking about.”
There’s some debate in that regard: “Big Bottom” vs.
John Entwistle’s solo on the Who’s “My Generation.”
But you couldn’t really hum the bass solo from “My Generation.” When you have the bass doing something hummable,
suddenly people go, “Oh, that’s a musical instrument, isn’t it?”
Other than just something up there. That’s the key to understanding that there’s music going on: You can hum it. It’s why people
i
INFO
Derek Smalls, Smalls Change (Meditations Upon
EQUIP
LISTEN
Ageing) [2018, Twanky/BMG], It’s a Smalls World
32
[1975, Nonesuch Record]; Spinal Tap, This Is Spinal Tap
[1984, Polydor], Break Like the Wind [1992, MCA],
Back From the Dead [2009, Spuzzle]
Bass Schecter 5-strings
Rig Croatia Audio Skjptrjc 58000 head & Czelcznc 7x10 cabinets
Strings Ernie Ball Super Slinky (.045–.100)
don’t think drummers are musicians—you can’t hum the drums.
So, “Big Bottom” introduced at least two or three generations to
the idea of the bass as a musical instrument. And I say that with
all undo modesty.
Do you remember the first time you ever played a bass?
My mates and I were sitting around, having a bit of a smoke, as
you would, and there was a bass sitting there. As soon as I plugged
it in, I was mesmerized by the sounds. I almost scared myself with
what I was doing. I wanted to do more of that, and of course it got
less scary as time went on.
Were you classically trained?
I wouldn’t say so. I’m quite grateful that I could write all of
these new songs without having to do what Mozart did and put all
of those dots on all of those lines. To do classical, you have to do
dots and lines—and to me, dots and lines are not music, because
you can’t hear them. It’s like literature, except without the words.
Who are some of your loudest influences?
I have to say, the bass player in Led Zeppelin [John Paul Jones].
He not only set the table, he sat down and ate at it. And Jack
Bruce—the blokes who were playing in trios, because they had
to fill so much of the sonic landscape. The bass seemed to power
over those bands. I aspired to have that kind of subtle dominance
over even four- and five-piece bands.
Let’s talk about your famous one-handed technique.
That’s all about the songwriting. If you can just do a song in,
let’s say, A and D, with an occasional G, you can keep your left fist
up for the entire song. But most songs lapse into other chords and
notes. Like everything else, it’s a matter of practice, and if you
walk around with your left fist up raised for about an hour a day,
you’re ready for whatever they throw at you musically. But don’t
do it with your right arm; otherwise they’ll think you’re a Nazi.
Who are you pointing at all the time while you’re playing?
I’m pointing at you. Not the person you are now, but the person
you want to be—the person who is freed by the music to be the
real you. The rock & roll you.
Would you say that the bass is an easy instrument?
Maybe too easy. That’s a confession I have to make. It’s why I
prefer the 5-string now. I’ve played a 5-string since the Break Like
the Wind tour, because it makes the bass that much less easy—
and because it lets me go lower. That’s the whole point. If you
want to go higher on the bass, why don’t you just play the bloody
cello and forget about it?
Jazz musicians’ careers often stretch into their 80s.
Are you proving that metal musicians can remain equally
relevant?
Well, to me, jazz musicians sound like they started out in their
80s. I don’t mean that as a criticism; it just comes out that way. But
I want to play until I drop—that’s all. As I say on the record: Age
is just a number; “number” is just a word; “word” is just a thing.
Of all musicians who have ever stood with a bass onstage,
you’re one of my favorite standers. Do you have any tips?
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Little Mark Ninja
1000W RMS @ 4 ohms
600W RMS @ 8 ohms
Markbass
New York 122 Ninja
2x12” + 1” voice coil tweeter
800W RMS (AES Standard)
8 ohms
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CS
DEREK SMALLS
Playing “Big Bottom” at a Snarky Puppy show at the
Republic New Orleans club, during 2016 Jazz Fest.
(L–R) Michael League, Derek Smalls, Snarky Puppy
guitarist Bob Lanzetti.
It’s all in the legs. Of all the stances I’ve seen by my colleagues,
[Metallica’s] Robert Trujillo was the one who really impressed me.
He was almost duck-walking, Chuck Berry-style, but even lower.
What you’re doing onstage is not just musical, it’s theatrical. I
think Shakespeare said that theater begins in the legs. He didn’t
say it in one of his plays, because it didn’t rhyme, but I think he
said it. I read it somewhere. If your legs aren’t ready for the task,
you’re going to be orating from a sitting position, and you lose the
projection. I don’t do acting, so I’m now just making this up—but
people think that projection comes from the voice or the stomach,
when actually, it comes from the legs. The same is true for bass
playing. Your machine, your dynamo, is in your legs.
To make it through a show, do you use any appliances
or mechanisms to help support your bass, your lower back,
and/or your legs?
No—I’m blessed with a very flexible frame. Doctors have told
me that; I have asked, “Do I have a very flexible frame?” and they’ll
nod yes. It’s the luck of the draw. I wasn’t born beautiful or rich,
but I was born with a very flexible frame.
So there’s no truth to the rumor that you’ve had hipreplacement surgeries, including surgery to replace your
replacement hips?
That is not true. I’ve still got the hips God gave me. And, they’re in
the same place. There was a doctor who wanted to switch them—he
34
didn’t want to do hip replacement, he just wanted to swap them. I
cast a quizzical glance at him, but he said, “It’s new, it’s experimental, and it might help.” I said, “Help what?” And he said, “Help me.”
Any thoughts on modern airport security and full-body
scanners?
If you’re referring to the moment in the “hatchet job,” that
tour was the biggest tour we had done up to that time, and I was
concerned about stagefright impacting upon my normal projection of, [pauses] shall we say, puissance. But that fear is long in
the past. I don’t recommend wrapping anything in foil and going
through a metal detector with it. It’s a fool’s errand.
Other than sheer loudness, would you say “Big Bottom”
is your greatest legacy?
My epitaph may very well be those notes. But not written
down as dots and lines—maybe there would be a little chip that
would play it as soon as you come near my headstone, so it’s not
wasted on an empty graveyard.
Do you have any advice for readers of this magazine who
also happen to be ageing rock gods?
One, renew your subscription early. Because you never know.
Two, take care of your body, and your body will take care of you.
You can do yoga, or you can just hang from rings—I’ve seen that
done. The body is not a temple, but it is a machine, and like any
other machine, sometimes it needs an oil change. BP
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Road Diary
STU HAMM’S UNIQUE NEW
SOLO-BASS PROJECT FOCUSES
ON THE SONGS
By Chris Jisi
PHOTOGRAPH BY EGIDIO SALVUCCI
“ALL OF MY SONGS ARE ABOUT SOMETHING, BUT NO
one ever asks me that. Instead they ask about what technique or
gear I used.” So says Stu Hamm in discussing how his captivating
new solo-bass album, The Diary of Patrick Xavier, is rife with information—from the story of the album’s genesis to details about each
song. The ten-track disc was inspired by a traveler’s diary Hamm
found in Italy during the course of his usual road practice of reading
a book, leaving it at the hotel library for the next guest, and taking
a new book. “Reading this student’s diary and seeing that we were
on the same type of quest, in many of the same places, gave me the
jumping-off point for the record,” he says. And plunge in he did,
with an intimate yet intense album of bass-only 4-string creations
that range from romantic ballads and modern-classical meditations
to tapped, slapped, and strummed jazz, funk, and noise art. “The
duality of the album is that the listener can delve in artistically, or it
can be pleasing music to put on in the background.” Hamm turned
to crowdsourcing to fund the project, learning a lot along the way.
Why did you choose to make a bass-only album?
I like to switch it up. Nothing beats playing with a band, but I’ve
been listening to what’s called post-modernist minimalism, with
36
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F
STU HAMM
composers like Steve Reich and Arvo Pärt, through the website
Hearts of Space [hos.com], which bills itself as “Slow music for
fast times.” The other key influence is Pat Metheny’s album One
Quiet Night [2003, Warner Bros.]. It’s such a beautiful record, and
you can hear all the imperfections. On my older albums I spent
so much time editing out the string squeaks and rattles. Here, I
embraced it all; you’ll hear me rushing or out of tune at times. I
like the austerity of just solo bass. On most of the songs, the art
is the interpretation, not improvisation.
The opening ballad, “Goodbye,” is a prime example of your
minimalistic approach. At first it seems like a chordal piece,
but upon closer listen, it’s mostly just a top and bottom note.
As you know, writing is rewriting and getting rid of as much
unnecessary material as possible. Originally I was playing a lot
more on “Goodbye,” but I kept thinking, What else can I take out?
Ultimately, it allowed the notes and spaces to have much more
value and depth. A funny contrast is that while recording it, in my
head I was hearing a Latin groove pounding away, to help me keep
time, but that also enabled me to leave more space.
“My Boss Drives a Mercedes … but I’m working for minimum wage plus tips” moves from mildly peeved to angry
in mood.
That’s sort of my socialist song [laughs]. The title refers to both
a cheapskate producer I knew in L.A., and the clubowner’s car in
i
INFO
Stuart Hamm, The Diary of Patrick Xavier
LISTEN
[2018, UbikMusik]
Basses Warwick Stu Hamm Prototypes (green and red); Washburn
Hammer (with True Temperment
fingerboard); fretless Fender Urge II
(with GHS Black Nylon Tape Wound
strings)
EQUIP
Rig Markbass S.T.U. Signature head
and 2x15 cabinet; Hartke HA5500
head and Hydrive HD112 cabinet
Strings GHS M3045 Bass Boomers
(.045–.105), L9000 Phospher Bronze
.076, .096)
Effects Zoom B3n Bass Effects Pedal
Other RiverStraps straps, Wireworld
Cable Technology cables
38
EGIDIO SALVUCCI
Acoustic Bass Guitar (.040, .056,
the parking spot at a place I used to play in Santa Monica, where
I’d make $20 but have to pay six bucks for a glass of wine. It’s a
tapped piece that relies on dynamics and some tone- and volumeknob turning to get the moods across. At the end, I reverse the
fingering and tap the melody down low, which makes for some
comic relief when performed live—the result of the influence the
Marx Brothers’ brilliant meld of comedy and music had on me.
You give a shout-out to Michael Manring on “Buono
Notte Amore Mia, Ovunque Tu Sia.”
This is a nod to his song “The Enormous Room” [from Thonk,
1994, High Street], which I’ve seen him perform on his Hyperbass—he’s one of a kind. I tuned the E string on my Washburn
to a D, so that I could Hipshot it down to a C, while playing the
harmonics. The title means “Goodnight My Love, Wherever You
Are.” I found a poem in the diary, and I tried to write a melody that
exactly mirrored Patrick’s words. This is one of six tracks where I
used my new Markbass S.T.U. head and cabinet. I had asked them
to make me a rock & roll rig, and they came up with a great tubepreamp head and a 2x15 cabinet that has incredible bottom end
and as much definition as a 4x10 cabinet.
“Chopping Wood” has an unmistakable open-strings
element.
I love my open strings. The first time I took notice of the concept was in Jaco’s solo on Weather Report’s “Havona” [Heavy
Weather, 1977, Columbia], where he bounces off the open G string
[at 3:35]. Upright bassists are masters of open strings in jazz, James
Jamerson used them ingeniously, and I’ve been using them ever
since; I had a tune on my previous album [The Book of Lies, 2015]
called “Open String Aria,” where I tried to use as many open strings
as possible up and down the neck. The challenge on this tune is
the phrasing against the meter. I was hearing four, six, and sevennote phrases played as 16th-notes. I had a loud quarter-note click
in my headphones to help dial them in.
Speaking of phrases, “The Weeping Beech” and “The
City” have interesting development.
“The Weeping Beech” was inspired by a couple of pieces by Estonian composer Arvo Pärt. It’s basically one phrase that becomes
longer and longer, until it’s all played together, and from there
it sort of deconstructs. This was a killer on the fingers, as I was
trying to let every note ring as long as possible.
“The City” is my ode to both San Francisco, where I spent some
of the best years of my life, and film composer Bernard Hermann,
who scored the Alfred Hitchcock and Ray Harryhausen movies I
grew up on. Hermann wrote a lot of single-note melodies, often
outlining 7th chords. I wanted to have a song on the album that
was one long melody, with no chords or groove.
What’s going on in “The Ballad of Billy Pilgrim,” with
its waves of distortion?
This is the track where people will ask for their money back
[laughs], but to me it’s one of the best songs on album—meant
to be listened to loud through headphones. Billy is the main
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ALISON HASBACH / TRUEFIRE
character from Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse 5, who becomes
unstuck in time. I wrote and recorded it on my laptop near
Pescara, Italy, which is where I found the diary. It’s basically about
how when you visit certain places where important events have
happened, they’re still occurring in some emotional way, like
memory-quakes that wash over you. I’ve never been a big effects
guy, but this record has me exploring them. The main distortion
sound was something I came up with for a song on a tour with
guitarist Jennifer Batten, which also incorporated long delays and
swells on my volume knob.
Both “Smoke Break” and “Hello” have overdubbed basses.
“Smoke Break” was a jazzy melody I was working on with some
phrases that approximate the false-fingerings saxophonists do. I
decided I wanted to solo on it, so there’s the melody track, the
chord and groove track, the solo track, and the backbeat-tappedon-my-fingerboard track—which was the hardest one to mix.
I’ve been doing the tune live using the looper in my Zoom B3n.
“Hello” was inspired by spending Christmas 2015 on a cruise
through the Galapagos Islands. I wanted to have the melody on
fretless, requiring a second track. The problem was I played the
chordal part on my Washburn with a True Temperament fingerboard, and when you compare the harmonic 3rd on that bass to
what’s generally accepted as a 3rd in Western music [equal temperament], it’s about a quarter-tone flat. So, when I played the
melody on my fretless Fender Urge II where I normally would, it
was sharp; I had to move my fingers back to get in tune.
What led you to choose crowdsourcing to fund the project?
Understanding the reality that no one is beating down my door
to finance a solo-bass album. I’m just not going to sell records like
Kendrick Lamar. Fortunately, my longtime engineer and partner
in crime, James Boblak, is way better at social media than I am.
He turned me on to Indiegogo, and it’s been awesome. I ran a campaign that had all kinds of perks. I offered signed copies of the
album, patronships where your name is included in the credits,
and pre-release copies where you listened to some of the tracks
and gave your input, and got listed as a co-producer. I sold Skype
lessons and offered my services as a bassist on people’s tracks. I
have a buddy in [the band] Nelson who told me fans pay to be their
roadies for a day, so I offered VIP packages and the opportunity to
be my production manager/roadie for the day. I sold everything
out, and that allowed me to hire a graphic artist for the booklet,
spend more on mastering, rent a safer vehicle for the tour, and
stay in nicer hotels.
How has it been going on tour?
Very well. At my first gig, a woman named Mary was my production manager. She brought windshield wiper fluid because it
was snowing out, she helped me with my merchandise table and
getting my basses ready, and we had dinner and chatted. I had a
VIP in Indianapolis who was a trombone player in my high school
jazz band, and another VIP who brought a friend who was recovering from surgery. They sat backstage, we had dinner, I played
their favorite songs at soundcheck, and we took photos.
Would you recommend this route to other artists?
Absolutely. It’s a great way to be in control of every aspect
of your music. Now the album is also available at CD Baby and
iTunes, but initially I had to send out all the copies, which was
time-consuming, especially with overseas orders where you have
to fill out customs labels. My main takeaway is: Don’t hesitate
to add expensive perks to your campaign. There are folks out
there who will be interested, and it will boost your intake. I had a
request for my most expensive perk, an executive producer slot,
after my campaign ended. I’m very blessed to have retained a
great core of fans who come out to my shows and want to have a
physical CD in their hands, read the booklet, and have it signed.
One last question: Have you heard from the real owner
of the diary?
Not so far. As I say in the liner notes, the names have been
changed to protect the guilty. I know he was in the film industry
in L.A. for a while, so we’ll see if that leads to any connections
back to the record. I’d love to meet him. BP
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3/15/18 9:07 AM
A
R O U N D U P
BY ROD C. TAYLOR
O F
G I G
IF YOU’RE LIKE ME, YOU PROBABLY
began your bass career by carting around your axe
in a hardshell case. You remember those—large,
awkward, hard-edge, ergonomically challenged rectangles that often left unsightly marks on your car’s
interior and made sharing cab rides pretty much
impossible. Years ago, a hardshell case was about
the only way to properly protect your bass en route
to gigs, and back in the day, only a few companies
made respectable alternatives. Not anymore: In the
past 20 years, we’ve seen a marked uptick in sophisticated, heavy-duty gig bags designed to protect
our basses in a variety of transport situations. As a
result, most players opt for gig bags over hardshell
cases; I personally resigned at least ten of those old
cases to my attic for some yet-unknown use. In their
place sit a number of high-quality bags that I swap
out depending on the bass and travel circumstances.
Given the proliferation of gig bags these days, we
thought it was about time to do a large-scale review
of some of them. To be clear, few gig bags are alike,
and there’s always some tradeoff depending on what
the company emphasized in their design. Some are
B A G S
meant to be super-easy on the back, while others are
created to optimize storage space. For this roundup,
we reached out to a variety of companies and asked
them to send us a bag light enough for daily use,
small enough to fit in most airplane overhead compartments, but heavy-duty enough to handle being
gate-checked if needed. They delivered. What follows
is a short, practical assessment of gig bags ranging
in street price from $100–$250.
To be clear, none of the bags reviewed here is meant
to be checked as luggage, although several of these
companies do make cases for just that purpose. I can
say with confidence, however, that I would comfortably gate-check any of the bags mentioned here; over
the past few months I’ve done just that, as have several of my fellow bass players in Nashville. So, a shout
out to a few people who aided in our review process:
Pro players Mike Brignardello, Matt Coen, and Rob
Byus provided valuable feedback, as did two of my
university students, Dawson Lowe and Piper Smith.
Due to space constraints, we can’t speak to every feature of all these bags. For more details, check them
out via the companies’ websites.
Gator Transit
Street $100
Weight 5 lbs
Pros Super-light, slim, rigid structure, sleek look
Cons None
Contact gatorcases.com
Well known for building quality cases for a variety of gear, Gator has introduced the Transit, a snazzy, lightweight, and durable addition to its line of gig bags. I carried around a 5-string in this bag for a few weeks,
and my back much appreciated its weight. I dug the G-hook and seatbelt connections on the main pocket,
as it let me overstuff the pocket if I needed to, while still securing it tightly. The lightest of the bags we
reviewed, the Transit is nonetheless appropriately sturdy and, at just a hundred bucks, a no-brainer for the
player on a tight budget.
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SKB 1SKB-SCFB4
Street $110
Weight 6.2 lbs
Pros Super-sturdy outer shell
Cons Formed interior can present problems for small-body basses
Contact skbcases.com
This bag is about as close as you can get to schlepping around a hardshell
case. While not the most comfortable on the back, the SKB will protect your
bass well. The form inside the case is pointedly “Fender-friendly,” which
presented local player Matt Coen with a small problem when toting his
custom, small-body bass. It fit just a bit too loosely and slid around a bit,
but he appreciated how rugged the bag was overall. The storage space is
adequate, although I’m not a fan of mesh pockets, due to how easily they
tear. Basically, if you have a Fender-style bass and want a hardshell-type
case that you can cart around on your back, this bag is for you.
Warwick Rockbag Starline
Street $120
Weight 7.3 lbs
Pros Nice-looking bag, plenty of storage, good price
Cons Doesn’t fit Fender-style basses well
Contact warwickbass.com
Warwick offers a variety of gear for the general bass market, and the
Starline gig bag line here provides one such example. The bag offers an
impressive amount of protective padding, pockets, and handles in all
the right places, but it’s also about four inches shorter than most bags.
While I can appreciate the attempt here to be compact, the length presents a problem for basses with long headstocks. For example, a standard
Fender 4-string only fits if you forcefully squeeze it in at the top, which
may detune the G-string peg. Adding just an inch to the bag’s length
would solve the problem, and it would still be compact. For short-scale
basses, though, this bag is where it’s at.
Gruv Gear GigBlade Sliver
Street $150
Weight 6 lbs
Pros Lightweight, slim, low center of gravity, easy to carry
Cons Thin gear pocket makes for tight packing
Contact gruvgear.com
The Gruv Gear GigBlade Sliver takes the gold in the race for the slimmest bag out there. Seriously, it’s crazy-thin. At first glance, I thought,
How will something this skinny protect my bass if it gets gate-checked?
Not a problem: The bag boasts a fairly rigid support system. The firm
sides are covered in rugged material, and there’s a brace sewn into the
bag that protects the bass neck. I dug the various ways you could carry
this bag comfortably. Whether you opt to side-carry, backpack it, or go
“quiver”-style, toting around the GigBlade is a cinch. However, loading your bass widens the bag a bit, which then puts the outside pockets under increased tension. Due to the squeeze, I found it a bit difficult
to pack large items into the pockets after the bass was already loaded.
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F
BAG IT!
Music Area WIND30-EB-GRN
Street $153
Weight 7.8 lbs
Pros Beautiful look, lots of storage, heavy-duty construction
Cons None
Contact musicarea.cn
A relative newcomer to the retail market, Music Area offers an ensemble of heavy-duty bags for reasonable prices. The model we tested came
in an attractive green cloth, and it provides plenty of thoughtful pockets and compartments for an iPad, cables, strings, tools, and more. I
took this one with me on a couple of short flights, and more than one
stranger commented on its beauty. The bag is basically weatherproof,
and I much appreciate the placement of the discrete handles along the
sides of the neck area—they come in handy when you’re standing in a
security line and having to scoot your bass along bit by bit. In short, it
provides everything I want in a flight-friendly gig bag: It’s sturdy but
lightweight, provides adequate storage, and looks great.
Reunion Blues Continental Voyager
Street $190
Weight 7.5 lbs
Pros Sleek look, rugged build, high-end materials
Cons None
Contact reunionblues.com
You couldn’t have a gig-bag roundup without including a Reunion Blues
product. This company’s stellar reputation goes all the way back to the
’70s, and I’ve run into players who are still using bags from that era. The
Continental Voyager is Reunion Blues’ no-nonsense bag for the musician
who wants to travel with minimum hassle. The sleek, hideaway backstrap
system ensures you’ll take up minimum space, and the reinforced, plush,
blue velvet interior guarantees that your bass will ride safely, but in style.
I loaned this one out to Nashville bass veteran Mike Brignardello for his
short tour with Amy Grant, and he later commented, “I can’t imagine
flying with another bag now.” That’s quite an endorsement.
Levy’s CPS8-BLK/GRY
Street $200
Weight 6 lbs
Pros Serious storage space, convenient over-the-shoulder carry option
Cons None
Contact levysleathers.com
If you’re looking for a gig bag that allows you to leave your suitcase at
home, this is the one for you. It has tons of storage space and amazing
additional features. For example, it offers four exterior pockets (with
additional interior pockets), a hideaway rain cape, interior string and
bridge protectors, and hideaway backstraps. It even has a secret hidden
pocket, but of course I can’t tell you where that is. Another nice feature
of Levy’s backpack strap system is that if you attach just one strap and
sling the bag over your shoulder, the bass drops down and rides behind
you level with your head. That feature might seem minor, but I’ve hit
my bag on several airport-bathroom doorways and other low-clearance
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areas when backpacking my bass around. That won’t happen here. I used
this bag on several occasions and really enjoyed having all the space for
gear and (in one case) my clothes.
Sadowsky Portabag
Street $225
Weight 15 lbs
Pros Superior protection, adjustable neck-support system, plenty of storage
Cons Heavy
Contact sadowsky.com
It’s not surprising that Roger Sadowsky—well known for his bass-building
prowess—offers a bag worthy of carting around one of his coveted axes.
But you don’t have to own a Sadowksy bass to get the benefit of a Sadowsky gig bag. And this is one hell of a bag. While the Portabag is the
heaviest of the ones we reviewed, it’s likely the sturdiest. It boasts plenty
of exterior storage, and it has well-placed handles on the side, front,
and back that balance the weight well. The heavy-duty adjustable shoulder straps offer two connection heights, and the neck-support system is
adjustable, too, specifically allowing for angled-headstock protection.
While the bag’s weight is noticeable, so is the protection it offers; I felt
completely comfortable putting my high-end custom basses in this bag,
knowing that not much could harm them while in transit.
Mono Vertigo
Street $250
Weight 6.2 lbs
Pros Top-loading, rugged boot, incredible neck support
Cons None
Contact monocreators.com
Mono is another one of those companies that enjoys a well-established
reputation in the world of gig bag manufacturers. The Vertigo is the only
top-loading bag of those reviewed here, and at first I didn’t think that
would matter much to me, but I have grown to appreciate it. It’s surprising how many times I find myself in places where laying out a gig bag
flat becomes problematic. With the Vertigo’s top-loading design, that’s
a non-issue. I also appreciated the way the bass neck rides in this bag,
as you don’t need to strap it in—it slips into place on its own due to a
raised neck-support system. The boot protection at the bottom put me
at ease in case of a drop, and I also loved its attachment options: You
can easily attach a small pedalboard so that you aren’t carrying two separate items onto the plane. BP
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Serek Sacramento
B Y J O N AT H A N H E R R E R A
|
THIS MIGHT BE THE FIRST TIME IN MY Bass Player
career that I’ve reviewed 32"-scale basses in back-to-back issues.
And here I was thinking I’d seen it all. Alas, the fact that the Serek
reviewed here is a 32"-scale bass is a natural reflection of a trend
I’ve alluded to in other shorter-scale bass reviews recently: they
are all the rage. While the MTD I checked out last month was
essentially a super-high-end boutique bass in petite form, the
Serek Sacramento here is much more aligned with what most
people think of when they ponder the history of basses shorter
than the standard 34". It’s got a ton of vibe and vintage-inspired
flavor; it’d be easy to imagine this instrument in the window of a
music store circa 1974.
Serek basses are entirely handbuilt by Jake Serek in Chicago.
A bass player himself, Serek was able to make building a fulltime gig last year, partly on the heels of an early ringing endorsement from bass great Tim Lefebvre. Serek’s design phililosophy
is steeped in his fave designs from the ’60s and ’70s and he also
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prioritizes light weight and playability. Serek got a headstart on
his woodworking chops at Lakland.
Fresh out of the guitar-sized gigbag, the Sacramento immediately impressed. Its sort of Rickenbacker-esque contour looked
great, and the satin faded black finish perfectly matched the opengrained walnut body. I especially like the Serek’s cool headstock
shape, and it looked particularly good with the body-matching
side-pieces joined to the much lighter-colored maple neck. All of
the hardware and assembly was top-notch, too. Lightweight Hipshot tuners prevented neck dive, and the simple control layout
features a pair of groovy-looking big knobs.
Serek chose a pair of Guild BS-1 pickups for my test Sacramento, although a host of other slightly-left-of-center pickups are
available as options, too. The Guild BS-1’s are the same pickups
that Guild uses on its new Starfire model, and they’re a solid recreation of the iconic Hagstrom Bi-Sonic pickups that Guild used
on its classic Starfire bass. While the big pickups may look like
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CAPITAL SOUND
I tested the Serek on a funk gig and in my studio. On
the gig, I used a Wayne Jones powered 2x10 paired
with an API preamp. In the studio, I used a variety
of amps, and was especially eager to try it with an
Ampeg B-15 and an old Sunn tube head with an
Ampeg SVT 8x10, given its vintage-inspired vibe.
bas0518_soundroom_ph1.indd 45
S
SPECIFICATIONS
Sacramento
Street $1,900-$2,200
Pros Excellent design and construction;
SEREK
The Serek was a killer sounding bass, with the
throaty and organic well-textured midrange that I
think is part of the big appeal of vintage mediumand short-scale basses. It doesn’t sizzle like a modern
bass, instead favoring the assertive punch and authority found in the low and middle frequencies. With
the bridge pickup soloed, I got a more focused sound
that refreshingly had little to do with the Jaco-esque
punch often found in more traditional Fender-inspired
two-pickup basses. The soloed neck pickup is fat
and round, with a huge and pillowy sound available
with the tone knob rolled off. Activating both pickups yielded a tone that did indeed blend the precisesounding bridge pickup and the warmer neck—it was
a sound that sat beautifully in a track, especially when
the tune was at a tempo that allowed the burnished
timbre to shine on long whole notes.
I deeply dug the Serek basses. In the midst of
this short- and medium-scale renaissance we’re
in, the Serek proved itself an exemplar of what is
most desirable about the category. Beutifully made
and superb sounding, anyone who doesn’t want
to pony up for and hunt down a funky vintage
bass would be well served to seek out a Serek. BP
rich, supportive, and beautifully textured
tone
Cons None
Bottom Line The Serek is a pitch-perfect
medium-scale bass with vibe to die for.
Construction Set Neck-through
Body Walnut
Neck 2-piece Maple
Fingerboard Pau Ferro or Bubinga
Tuners Hipshot
SPECS
beefy humbuckers, they’re actually single-coils.
What looks like a row of pole-pieces is actually a
set of flat-head screws for adjusting the magnet’s
height. Pickup switching on the test Serek came
courtesy a 3-position switch, so it was a cinch to
quickly explore the bass’s three intrinsic sounds.
The Sacramento was among the most playable and comfortable basses I’ve encountered in
some time. Sure, its diminutive size was a major
factor—it’s easy to feel in control of the lightweight, compactly proportioned instrument. But
just as integral to its ergonomics were its excellent balance, narrow and somewhat shallow neck,
and deep cutaway. It would be a breeze to host the
Serek on your shoulder for a long night of music—
it feels like it’s barely there.
Bridge Hipshot
Pickup Guild BS-1
Controls Volume, Tone, 3-way pickup
selector
Scale length 32"
Made in U.S.A.
Contact www.serekbasses.com
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Ovation Mod TX Collection Elite
B Y J O N AT H A N H E R R E R A
|
OVATION GUITARS AND BASSES HAVE
long resided in a unique corner of the instrument
landscape. First developed in 1964 by helicopter
designer, aerodynamicist, and amateur guitar player
Charles Kaman (how’s that for a resume?), Ovation instruments are most notable for the use of a
proprietary synthetic material, Lyrachord, for the
body. Made from glass fibers and resin, Lyrachord
was the product of a design effort that included a
team of aerospace engineers and technicians. In
addition to its rigidity and light weight, Lyrachord
can be shaped in ways that wood never could. This
finds an idealized form in the parabolic back of Ovation instruments, which the design team favored
for its superior volume, projection, and sustain.
Much like other basses that use composites
46
for some integral part of their construction, Ovations are particularly well known for their durability and relative resistance to the deliterious effects
of weather that many touring musicians endure.
It’s part of why Ovations have been long favored
by live musicians who spend a lot of time on a bus
between gigs. I recall when there was nary an episode of MTV Unplugged that didn’t feature one or
more musicians on an Ovation.
While the brand has changed ownership over
the years, the essential design characterists of Ovation have endured. Their latest bass, the Mod TX,
was designed as a sleek and big-sounding amalgamation of all the cool design signatures that made
Ovation famous. Beyond the de rigeur parabolic
Lyrachord back, the Ovation is mostly made in a
similar way to conventional acoustic guitars and
basses, with a few twists. The spruce top is coated
in a synthetic material with the faintly textured
feel of a pickup truck’s bedliner. The top is punched
out with a variety of holes on the upper-bout,
another distinctive Ovation feature. The neck is
made of maple, as is the norm, but its rosewood
fingerboard offers extra high-range extension on
the top strings.
Although the Ovation is remarkably loud for
an acoustic bass guitar, no ABG would be complete without a good pickup and preamp system.
Happily, it’s clear Ovation has been at this game
awhile, as the piezo pickup and accompanying Ovation preamp are great-sounding and fully featured.
Most important, the bass’s acoustic tone is well
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APPLAUSE APPLAUSE
Maybe I’m a purist, but I have to admit when I
first saw the Mod TX, I didn’t think it would have
an especially rich and resonant acoustic sound. I
was definitely wrong. First, its most notable initial sonic feature is its impressive volume, both
into a room and up to my ear. It speaks loud and
clearly, which again, is something a lot of ABGs
with their dimunitive size struggle to do. Its basic
acoustic voice is even and well-balanced throughout
bas0518_soundroom_ph1.indd 47
S
SPECIFICATIONS
Mod TX Collection Elite
Street $1,900
Pros One-of-a-kind look and construction;
O VAT I O N
the range, with a pleasant overtone spectrum and
impressively deep low-frequency extension, and
a slightly mellow top end. I loved that I could jam
with other acoustic musicians without needing
an amp; it’s volume and throw into a space would
make it a masterful campfire bass.
Plugged in, I was glad to discover that the
same endearing sonic personality it had remained.
Again, I was most struck by its string-to-string
evenness. Perhaps it’s related to the synthetic
body material, but the bass was precise and articulate, no matter where I played. Again, I loved its
slightly mellow treble response, and quickly found
myself emulating an upright bass with the help
of some palm-muting and a small bass boost. The
preamp worked well, and as ever, I loved having an
onboard tuner. I didn’t much dig the pre-shape circuit, rather favoring a flat sound, but it’s there to
add a little scooped countour if that’s your flavor.
It’s been some time since I’ve owned an acoustic bass guitar, but my time with the Ovation had
me rethinking that slot in my collection. Whether
or not you need an ABG for its acoustic portability, the Ovation Mod TX is a great and natural
sounding bass that would work well on many a
track that might more naturally call for an electric. Excellent work. BP
big-time volume and projection; beautiful
and even timbre
Cons None
Bottom Line Whether or not you’re in the
market for an acoustic bass guitar, the
Ovation Mod TX would make a worthy addition to your sonic palette.
Construction Set neck
Body Lyrachord
Neck Hard rock maple
Fingerboard Rosewood
Tuners Gotoh-style die-cast
Bridge Rosewood
SPECS
translated when plugged in, something where a
lot of ABGs fall short. Another cool design touch
is the rosewood bridge, stained black for a steely
aesthetic. While the bridge doesn’t offer full
intonation adjustability, it at least offers compensated saddles that enhanced the bass’s highregister intonation.
The Ovation’s construction was excellent and
a further testament to the high quality instruments that are now the norm from Korea. It also
sat comfortably, particularly on my lap, where the
gentle countours melded well with my body’s own.
It balanced and played well, with its rather large
frets being of course a subjective matter of taste.
The neck, though, is a clear winner—it’s fast and
small like a J-style electric.
Pickup Ovation OCP-1K
Preamp Ovation OP Pro w/ 3-band EQ,
chromatic tuner, pre-shape, and mid-shift
functions
Scale length 34"
Made in Korea
Contact www.projects.prometsource.com
bassplayer.com / m a y 2 0 1 8 47
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TECHBENCH
TECHBENCH
LINK
FACE
TECH
PLAY
LEARN
T
48
THE INQUIRER
Loss, Growth, and Joy
B Y J O N AT H A N H E R R E R A
|
I LOVE PLAYING BASS AND KEYBOARDS, BUT
Needless to say, this wasn’t an immediatley fruitful endeavor.
years spent in school studying music and at Bass Player interBuilt-out fully functioning recording studios don’t just pop up
viewing and learning from our community’s elite had left me
on Craigslist every day, but fortunately the investment I’d made
without the same wide-eyed wonder that characterized most of
in being a part of a scene in the Bay Area eventually paid off. A
my musical life. My late 30s found me acutely aware of everyfriend of mine wanted a partner to share in his space at a legthing I needed to do to get better. It’s not that I had
endary studio only 20 minutes or so from my house in
achieved some kind of masterful enlightenment, it’s
the City. I’ve been a partner at Airship Laboratories
just that I had a clear sense of what I needed to
ever since, and while it’s occasionally frustrating
do to perhaps get there. I missed the pursuit of
and a new place to funnel money into, it’s one
a challenge about which I knew relatively little.
of the best decisions I’ve made, professionally.
I love the studio culture. From the technical
If you’re at the early stages of this ambidemands, to the gear, to the opportunity to make
tion, there’s a few things you’ll definitely need
a tangible and permanent document of a musito get started, which brings me to the real point
cal moment, I’ve always found myself thrilled
of this month’s column. Whether your focused
to be a part of making records. Plus, since leavon building a state-of-the-art facility, or want
Bass Player Senior Contribing the Bass Player full-time staff in 2010, I’d
to dip a toe in the water at home, a few essenuting Editor Jonathan
mostly been working out of my cute-but-cozy
tials will help you get started.
Herrera is the magazine’s
San Francisco apartment. I was simply home
COMPUTER
former Editor-in-Chief. An
way too much, and I pined for the days where
Like it or not, 99% of music (my own estimate)
accomplished player, Jonawork included getting up early, getting fed and
is made with computers now. I strongly favor
than is now a full-time musishowered, and hopping in my car to an office.
Apple computers in this role, as does most of
cian and producer. His latest
There’s only so many times you can spend a day
the professional community, but there are defendeavor is Bay Area record10 feet from where you sleep before you start
initely some vocal proponents of PCs and even
ing studio Airship Laboragoing slightly nuts.
Linux machines out there. Whether or not you
tories. Catch up with him at
Having decided that I wanted a studio to
choose a laptop or desktop is a matter of porjonherrera.com and at
call my own (or at least partially call my own),
tability, as laptops these days don’t give up
airshiplaboratories.com.
I set out on a quest to find a suitable space.
bassplayer.com / m a y 2 0 1 8
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too much to their desktop cousins other than the
amount of connectivity available.
INTERFACE
decent way to listen to your work. Most often, initially, this will come in the
form of nearfield monitos, which are high-fidelity speakers design to be heard
up close, thus mitigating the negative acoustic effects of an untreated room.
You need a piece of hardware that converts analog
audio into digital audio, aka an audio interface. If
you intend to record larger ensembles, you’ll want
to save up for an interface that features at least 8
analog inputs, which a single mic’d drum kit could
easily gobble up.
MICROPHONES
SOFTWARE
DI
Now that you have the computer and the interface,
you need software designed to record, mix, and
produce music. These “Digital Audio Workstation”
programs are incredibly powerful now, and while
there’s a variety available, each engineer tends to
have a favorite. In professional spheres, Avid’s Pro
Tools is by far the most common, but Apple Logic
is not far behind.
Given you’re a bass player, you’re likely going to spend some time recording
yourself. That means you’ll need a good quality direct box. There are tons out
there, and I’ve reviewed many in these pages. In the studio, I tend to favor active
boxes, because I feel better able to get fidelity over long cable runs.
MONITORS
All of this would be pointless if you didn’t have some
This will be where the money starts to potentially get out of hand. At the start,
you’ll need at least two mics. One dynamic microphone, like a Shure SM57, and
one condensor microphone, like the classic AKG 414 or Neumann U67. The condensor is where you’ll see the prices skyrocket, so I strongly encourage you to
research the category as much as possible.
ACOUSTIC TREATMENT
Nothing is more frustrating than slaving over a mix, only to discover that it
sounds like garbage in your car or on your headphones. This is often due to
inadequate treatment of your listening space, as the room’s poor frequency
response can fool you into making adjustments that aren’t necessary. Start
small, get expert advice, and build out the acoustic space as money allows. BP
T H I S C A N R E B U I L D A C O M M U N I T Y.
At the D’Addario Foundation, we believe the most effective
instrument for creating lasting, positive change for children
and their communities is music education. That’s why we work
with over 200 successful, diverse community-based programs
to help bring music to kids who may never have access
bas0518_techbench_inquirer_prod_f.indd 49
otherwise. And 100% of your donation to the D’Addario
Foundation goes directly towards giving music education
to children. So every dollar you give makes a real difference.
Learn more at daddariofoundation.org
bassplayer.com / m a y 2 0 1 8 49
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LEARN
TECH
PLAY
T
BEHIND THE BASS
FACE
Instant Vintage!
LINK
Justin Meldal-Johnsen Discusses His Fender Signature Bass
TECH BENCH
BY JON D'AURIA
|
JUSTIN MELDAL-JOHNSEN’S MUSICAL RESUMÉ IS
as long as it is impressive. He’s been Beck’s bass player since 1996.
He’s played with Nine Inch Nails, Ima Robot, Garbage, Air, and
other legendary bands. He’s produced hit records for M83, Paramore, Jimmy Eat World, Tegan And Sara, and Young The Giant. He’s
played on the biggest stages around the globe, been on national
television countless times, and won prestigious awards for his
efforts. Now he’s been bestowed with one of the greatest honors
a musician can receive: his own signature instrument.
The Fender JMJ Road Worn Mustang Bass is modeled after
the vintage 1966 Daphne Blue Mustang that Justin has been playing onstage and in the studio for years. With all the wear and tear,
dings, dents, and beauty marks replicated from his original bass,
the signature model is a true relic of a classic. We checked in with
Justin to discuss his signature bass and to learn more about his
love and obsession with Fender Mustangs.
You have an extensive collection of rare, unique, and soughtafter vintage basses. Why did you choose your 1966 Mustang
as the model for your signature bass?
Over the last eight or nine years, that bass just kept getting
more and more playing time. I’d find that artists, producers,
front-of-house guys, and even audience members would comment on how good it sounded. Most of this started happening while on tour with Beck, and while recording, but also I’d
be getting positive feedback while doing sessions or playing on
projects I produce.
What are your favorite aspects of the Mustang Basses?
How much fun they are to play, and the visual aesthetics. I like
the “underdog” aspect, as well as the vaguely punk ramifications of
re-appropriating what originally began as a student instrument.
What is it that you love about short-scale basses?
Mainly that it’s just so fun to rip on a smaller bass, plus all of
its unique tonal attributes.
You’re a big Tina Weymouth fan. How much did that
inform your love of these basses?
Quite a bit, though any Tina-phile like myself will admit that she
used the Mustang only for a certain portion of her career, and even
50
then, her bass was soon customized with additional pickups. But
the image and sound of Tina on a Mustang is totally iconic. There
were several others who influenced me as a Mustang player: Holger
Czukay, Richard Hell, Trevor Bolder, Chris Murphy from Sloan,
Nicolas Godin from Air, Sharin Foo from the Raveonettes, Tom
Cowan from the Horrors, and my friend Jason Falkner, among others.
What is it about the Mustang tone that you love so much?
The particular type of low end it puts out. It’s big and warm and
rubbery, but it’s also “compact.” I guess it has to do with the particular harmonics this bass presents on top of the fundamental.
And you can get it to sound really fat and creamy, as well. When
you palm-mute with a pick, it sounds super punchy.
What made you want to have this bass distressed to
resemble your original?
Just taste, I suppose. Why not? It’s just more fun this way.
How true is it to your original bass?
It’s extraordinarily close. Every detail was considered.
What was it like working with Fender?
A dream, seriously. The Fender team’s level of interest and commitment was super deep. They left no stone unturned and considered every whim and detail I presented—and brought forward
many of their own. There are some great guys there that I simply
must acknowledge specifically, total unsung heroes and awesome
dudes who live and breathe this stuff: Alex Perez, Justin Norvell,
Matt Farrar, and Sterling Doak, among others.
Which amp do you think pairs perfectly with this bass?
A late-’60s to early-’70s Ampeg B-15N. Equally badass would
be an Acoustic 370 or Sunn 200S pushing either a Sunn or Acoustic cab with worn-out CTS or JBL speakers.
What sonic properties do you love about recording this
bass?
I’m always trying to find a satisfying way to make things fit
into a given sonic landscape, and as a producer, I am by no means
a minimalist. I’m a self-confessed maximalist, for sure; I like tracks
that are dense, when I can get away with it. But I also need elements to have articulation and intelligibility. A good Mustang
with the right strings can often end up being the perfect tool for
that interesting dilemma.
bassplayer.com / m a y 2 0 1 8
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i
INFO
Watch JMJ demo his
signature bass.
bas0518_techbench_jmj_kc3_f.indd 51
bassplayer.com/may2018
CONNECT
Do you prefer to pick or use your fingers while playing this bass?
I don’t prefer one over the other; I think
both are essential. This instrument has a fairly
high degree of sonic range and sensitivity,
so both pick and fingerstyle sounds can give
you their own versions of tight and spikey to
round and rich.
Where does having a signature bass
rank on your life-accomplishment list?
It’s huge. Being able to share this with
people is both totally surreal and uniquely
satisfying. Part of me is always going to feel
surprised when I see someone out there playing one of these basses. I’m really grateful for
all of it. BP
bassplayer.com / m a y 2 0 1 8 51
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LEARN
i
JAZZ CONCEPTS
Percy Heath & “Doxy”
BY JOHN GOLDSBY
JOHN GOLDSBY
John’s bass-playing
That’s Jazz!
body-double robot
is almost ready to
play gigs. Check
out his video lesson
series The Upright
Bass Handbook, at
truefire.com and
johngoldsby.com.
|
IN MY NEXT LIFE, I WILL AGAIN BE A BASSIST, BECAUSE IT’S JUST THAT
cool. However, I’d like to have a body double for those times when the good gigs are aplenty
and I can’t be in two places at once. (I could also send my body double to the bad gigs, so I
could stay home and play with my looper pedal.) For example, due to some scheduling conflicts, I won’t be teaching at the Jamey Aebersold Summer Jazz Workshops this July. After 50
years and a gazillion choruses of blues, this will be the last year of the Workshops. If you’re
curious, I urge you to go and spend a week with the outstanding bass faculty: Rufus Reid,
Lynn Seaton, David Friesen, Bob Sinicrope, Tyrone Wheeler, Chris Fitzgerald, Rich Armandi,
and J.B. Dyas. Because it’s the Workshops’ final year, I’ve been thinking back on my involvement, beginning as a student in the ’70s and continuing as a teacher off and on for decades
since. I wanted to find one tune to sum up the spirit of teaching and bass brotherhood that
I experienced with the Aebersold bass faculty and students.
This month, let’s look at a transcription of Percy Heath’s bass line on “Doxy,” a jazzworkshop standard. “Percy’s time feel was swinging and infectious,” says Rufus Reid. “He had
great pitch, and his lines were clear and simple, full and buoyant, with great note placement.”
“Doxy” is easy and fun to improvise on, a mini-masterpiece, which is why it remains a jamsession and gig standard 60 years after it was first recorded. Says Reid, “It’s a very singable
melody, with basically only two phrases to remember.”
The original version of “Doxy” was recorded in 1957 [Miles Davis, Bags’ Groove, Prestige].
Each section of this AABA form is only four bars long, offering a quick, satisfying romp
through the melody and solo changes. The chord progression meanders from the home base
of Bb, always moving in cycles, before returning for a soft landing in Bb. Says Chris Fitzgerald, professor of jazz bass at the University of Louisville, “Harmonically, ‘Doxy’ can be covered by playing a blues scale, but it has enough twists and turns that anyone with more
harmonic vocabulary can outline all of the changes. This makes it a great vehicle for both
beginning and advanced players.”
The rhythm section team of Heath, drummer Kenny Clarke, and pianist Horace Silver
52
INFO
The prototype for
• Take a trip back
to 1957 and listen
to the original
version of “Doxy”
with Percy Heath on
bass.
• Check out “F.R.B.
(for Ray Brown),” an
étude based on the
changes of Ray’s
composition “F.S.R.
(for Sonny Rollins),”
which is based on
CONNECT
WOODSHED
LINK
FACE
TECH
WOODSHED
PLAY
W
the changes to
“Doxy,” which is
based on the chord
progression to
“Ja-Da.” Whew!
• Listen to Percy
Heath talk about his
life and music in an
NPR interview.
bassplayer.com/
may2018
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Medium swing
Bb7
= 120
Ab7
3
3
6
5
6
5
2
5
5
F7
3
Bb7
3
3
3
3
2
3
5
3
Drum & piano hits
2
3
3
5
Ab7
G7
6
5
5
Eb7
3
Bb7
13
C7
Bb7
F7
8
G7
3
3
Ab7
3
3
G7
4
3
5
Edim7
3
1
C7
C7
3
F7
3
2
3
Bb7
3
EX. 1
3
3
3
5
Bb7
17
3
Ab7
3
C7
23
5
G7
1
3
5
6
5
3
C7
7
5
4
6
F7
5
F7
7
5
5
2
3
(5) (3)
1
1
Bb7
2
3
5
3
3
5
Ab7
3
5
2
1
5
5 3
3
Bb7
1
2
G7
3
5
(5) 2
Eb7
3
3
2
5
3
Edim7
28
6
1
bas0518_woodshed_kc5_f.indd 53
4
2
5
3 1
Bb7
3
5
2
3
Bb7
33
2
Ab7
4
3
5
Ab7
5
5
3
5
3
1
1
3
5
1
5
C7
7
C7
4
5
2
3
5
5
G7
3
G7
2
5
F7
5
5
3
5
3
5
1
5 3
5
1
Bb7
2
3
5
3
5 2
3
F7
5
3
2
bassplayer.com / m a y 2 0 1 8 53
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LEARN
PLAY
W
WOODSHED
LINK
FACE
TECH
anchored many of the Prestige label’s sessions during the ’50s. Jazz historian David Rosenthal called the threesome “one of the most tightly knit and
well-balanced trios in jazz history” [Hard Bop: Jazz and Black Music, 1955–
1965, 1992, Oxford University Press]. Kenny Clarke played with an irresistibly happy ride-cymbal beat, and Heath dug into his quarter-notes with a
mature matter-of-factness. Rosenthal writes, “Their equilibrium came from the
contrast between Heath’s and Clarke’s flowing, cushiony beat and Silver’s
choppily percussive comping: a mixture of smoothness and roughness that
was extraordinarily propulsive.”
Example 1 shows the first two choruses of Heath’s bass line. “Doxy” is a
contrafact of the 1918 standard “Ja-Da”: Both tunes share a similar harmonic
structure, although the changes are slightly different in their harmonic rhythm.
Possibly because he was hearing “Ja-Da” in his head, Heath tends to place the
Ab7 on the downbeat of bar 2 in the A sections, whereas Silver plays the Ab7 on
beat three of bar 1, followed by a G7 on the downbeat of bar 2. That’s jazz! Hearing master musicians work out their musical differences spontaneously in the
studio is a key difference between jazz and pop music. Later in the track, Silver
and Heath agree that the G7 lands on beat one of bar 2.
“Percy plays mostly quarter-notes under the solos and makes them bounce
and feel good,” says Fitzgerald. “If a jazz pedant were to listen to his note
choices, they would find a lot of broken rules regarding bass line construction.
But the line feels and sounds great. This teaches us that playing simple lines
that bounce and feel good is more important than academic, connect-the-dots
systems where the emphasis is only on theoretically
correct note choices.”
Note the following:
Bars 1–8 Heath plays a broadly swinging two
feeling on the melody chorus.
Bars 9–12 In the bridge (the B section), Heath
sits on fat half-notes, while the piano and drums
play rhythmic hits. These hits have become an integral part of the tune—for bassists also.
Bars 13–16 Rhythmic embellishments, including ghost-notes (dead or muted notes marked with
an “x” notehead) and a triplet drop in bar 15.
Bar 17 Listen for the slight space at the end of
the quarter-notes. This helps the bass and drums
lock in and gives forward motion to the line.
Bar 20 Chromatic leading tone on beat four.
Bar 24 Chromatic passing note on beat two.
Bar 25 Triplet drop on beat one.
Bars 25–27 Note the use of the dotted-eighth
and 16th-note rhythmic embellishments.
Bar 28 Edim7 arpeggio.
Bar 29 Chromatic passing note on beat two.
Bar 33 Third chorus starts. BP
ENTRY FEES HELP SUPPO RT THE NON-P ROFIT
JOHN LENNO N EDUCA TIONA L TOUR BUS
2018 JLSC AD BP half OL.indd 1
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BERKLEE BASS BABYLON
The Art Of The Jam, Part 2
WELCOME BACK TO BERKLEE BASS BABYLON.
Last time (March ’18), Victor Wooten and I offered tips on
how to make spontaneous onstage jams sound like written
compositions. Let’s finish up that idea.
Vic In some jam situations, there will be multiple
musicians playing the same instrument, such as multiple
bassists, horns, vocalists, or chordal instruments. In this
case, make sure to trade roles. For example: If I’m playing
the bass part at the start of the song, I should encourage
another bassist to take over at the next section. This will
instantly add new dimensions and dynamics. Taking turns
trading back and forth and accompanying different soloists is extremely fun and can be treated like a game. Just
remember to keep it musical.
Singers who jam (especially in jazz) often choose to
“scat” sing. That’s okay, but you should realize, at that point,
that you’ve taken on an instrument role, and there are usually enough instruments already. So, here’s your challenge:
Come up with lyrics. Improvise them on the spot if you
have to. They don’t have to be good, but lyrics will create
a “subject” for the song and for the listeners to latch onto.
Keep them simple so everyone can learn them and so that
you can remember them when the verse or chorus comes
around again. Think about it: The Beatles made a hit out of
singing “She loves you—yeah, yeah, yeah!” over and over
again. Creating lyrics, even basic ones, is much more powerful than only scatting.
Steve The most important skill, the key to any of this
working, is listening. To listen well, one needs to develop
a vocabulary that involves ear training. This includes the
ability to name, on beat, the various diatonic intervals of
a major scale and also to be able to identify the four basic
chord types: major, minor, diminished, and augmented. I
have seen students go from “zero to hero” with this level
56
|
of ear training in less than a week of deliberate practice.
Then, when the bass notes or the chords change, you will
hear it immediately and know exactly where to go. Again,
the key is to listen first.
Vic A famous musician once reminded me that I have two
ears. He said, “One of them is for you, but the other one is
for the rest of the band.” That is a lesson I will never forget.
Steve The listening concept can also be practiced as a
group. In the middle of a song, stop and talk about who
was listening to what. Can the guitarist sing the kick-drum
pattern? Does the bassist know the lyrics? Does the drummer know what the pianist was doing with his left hand?
Regardless of the answers, listening will be immensely
enhanced as soon as the song restarts. And remember:
Laying out is okay! Adding space is almost always a big plus
for the music. It’s interesting that “listen,” with the letters
rearranged, is “silent.”
Vic To create the most musical and enjoyable situation
for all, jamming should be about teamwork. If one person
musically turns left, we should all turn left. The “one for
all and all for one” attitude is strictly followed in the world
of improv comedy, and musical jam sessions also benefit
from following this code. Try using these approaches the
next time you play with other musicians. Then, pay attention to the compliments you get.
Developing these skills can take your musicianship
to new and exciting places, and it can give you a sense of
musical freedom. Jamming in this way can also be used
as an excellent songwriting technique. Guaranteed: Using
song forms, improvising simple melodies, and coming up
with lyrics will cause every jam to emerge as a new song.
And, applying these jamming skills in non-jamming situations can awaken songs that have been played hundreds
of times. BP
i
INFO
Steve Bailey is the
Chairman of the
Bass Department
at Berklee College
of Music and the
ST E V E BA IL E Y
BY STEVE BAILEY WITH VICTOR WOOTEN
grandmaster of the
fretless 6-string as
a veteran sideman,
author, educator,
and solo artist. In
addition to touring
with Victor Wooten
in Bass Extremes,
he is at work on his
next solo record.
One of the most
influential bassists
of the last 25 years,
Victor Wooten
VI CTO R WOOTE N
WOODSHED
LINK FACE TECH PLAY LEARN W
is a member of
the Berklee Bass
Department
faculty. In addition
to running his
numerous camps
(vixcamps.com), he
is touring in support
of his latest album,
Trypnotyx.
bassplayer.com / m a y 2 0 1 8
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LEARN
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58
Jamiroquai’s “Something About You”
Paul Turner’s Complete Bass Line
BY CHRIS JISI
|
WITH A SIZABLE NOD BACK TO THE DISCO DAYS WHEN BASS
guitar ruled the dance floor, a splash of acid jazz, and an eye on moving forward
musically and sonically, Jamiroquai remains one of the coolest, longest-running bass gigs out there. Singer–songwriter Jay Kay founded the band in 1992,
first with the ear-grabbing Stuart Zender (“Cosmic Girl,” “Virtual Insanity”) and
then Nick Fyffe (“Love Foolosophy”) leaving their indelible fingerprints on the
low end. Since 2005, the band’s bottom sway has been in the capable hands of
Paul Turner. Turner quickly contributed his own Jamiroquai bass anthem via
2006’s “Runaway,” and he added more groove gems to the band’s 2010 platter,
Rock Dust Light Star. Last year’s Automaton finds the blond bassman mostly on
5-string in his usual role as the key counter-voice to Kay’s stylish vocals. He
issues stuttering finger-funk on “Superfresh” and “Vitamin,” an old school subhook on “Nights in the Jungle,” and taut slapping on “Summer Girl.” But perhaps his most nuanced part can be found on “Something About You,” with its
backbeat-heavy feel encouraging expressive embellishments.
Turner’s music-intensive background perfectly prepared him for a life slinging ostinatos. Born in Sunderland, England, on March 11, 1966, and raised on
the Isle of Man, Turner and a friend took guitar lessons at age 14. Being bandminded, their teacher immediately assigned Turner to bass, with a black Hondo
P-Bass copy soon to follow. He dug into rock greats Andy Fraser and Jack Bruce
and checked the fusion of Stanley Clarke, Jaco, and Percy Jones, but R&B spoke
to him most deeply, via Norman Watt-Roy, Will Lee, Anthony Jackson, Pino Palladino, Marcus Miller, and his biggest influence, Bernard Edwards. Of his passion for the pocket, he says, “Since I was first exposed to music on record and
the radio, I’ve been able to key into the soul of a performance. I enjoy getting
inside a groove; I’ve always listened that way.” Due to the Isle being a popular
British tourist destination, Turner quickly found himself gigging six or seven
times a week, in dance and rock bands. At age 18 he met bassist Roger Inniss,
who came through the Isle with soul singer Ruby Turner. Inniss took the young
Turner under his wing, helping to persuade his parents to let their son pursue a
life in music. Turner moved to London at age 21 and stayed with Inniss, eventually taking over his slot in Ruby Turner’s band and cracking the R&B scene via
gigs with Errol Brown and Edwin Starr. The ’90s found him working with Brit
boy band Take That and the solo excursions of members Robbie Williams and
Gary Barlow, while also recording with Tina Turner and Tom Jones. In 2001, he
began a multi-year stint with Annie Lennox, leading
up to his 2005 audition for Jamiroquai.
The session for “Something About You,” like
the rest of Automaton, was a departure from Rock
Dust Light Star, where the band recorded as a unit.
Here, Turner went into Jay Kay’s Chillington Studios, in Buckinghamshire, England, with Kay and
keyboardist/co-producer Matt Johnson present,
and cut to a guide track of drums, keys, and vocal.
Turner plucked his ’90s Music Man StingRay 5-string
(with old D’Addario roundwounds), sent through
a Jule Monique Bass Preamp and D.W. Fearn compressor into Pro Tools. Having memorized the song
form, he played standing up in the control room,
hearing the bass through room monitors. After a
few rehearsal passes, the first take was kept. “Jay is
great at singing ideas to each member of the band,
and he’ll coach a part with encouragement and suggestions,” says Paul
The track begins with a bar of keyboard, and then
the groove is in at letter A, the first chorus. “The
two-bar rhythmic phrase was in place on the track,
and I added the beat-four fills and passing notes,”
explains Turner. “Jay and Matt referenced Michael
McDonald’s ‘I Keep Forgettin’’ [If That’s What It
Takes, 1982, Warner Bros., with Louis Johnson on
bass] as an inspiration for the groove.” A key to the
feel is the contrast between Turner’s short, staccato notes for most of the two-bar phrase and the
long tones he uses for the passing notes at the end
of each second measure. Letter B is the first verse,
with its syncopated rhythm present in the vocals,
keyboards, and bass. Turner augments this by bringing the third and fourth notes up an octave in each
measure, and he provides a nasty fill in bar 27. “Jay
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doesn’t want our tracks to sound repetitive or mechanized. He
likes the little fills, nuances, and idiosyncrasies that make it
sound real, like the records we grew up on.”
For C’s second chorus, Turner adds subtle variations; dig
the Jamerson-like Bn in his bar 40 climb—too fast to disturb
the ear. Letter D’s second verse is highlighted by his killer stepout in bar 52, for which he punched the last two top notes to
harmonize them. “That’s my homage to Nate Phillips. It’s in the
style of his fills.” Letter E’s third chorus has its cool moments
in bars 66–67 and 72–74. Following a drum-and-guitar breakdown at F, a new outro section emerges at G. Turner finds his
bas0518_transcription_prod_f.indd 59
7 Other Great Paul Turner Tracks
1 “Runaway” [Jamiroquai, High Times: Singles 1992–2006, 2006, Sony]
2 “All Good in the Hood” [Jamiroquai, Rock Dust Light Star, 2010, Mercury]
3 “She’s a Fast Persauder” [Jamiroquai, Rock Dust Light Star, 2010, Mercury]
4 “Absolution” [the Dark Sinatras, Sick Society, 2011, DefectoscopeSounds]
5 “Do You” [the Dark Sinatras, Happy Families, 2014, DefectoscopeSounds]
6 “Vitamin” [Jamiroquai, Automaton, 2017, Virgin/EMI]
7 “Superfresh” [Jamiroquai, Automaton, 2017, Virgin/EMI]
bassplayer.com / m a y 2 0 1 8 59
3/14/18 2:34 PM
way through the new changes, adding fills, before locking into a
four-bar phrase nine measures in that takes the track into its fade.
Turner—who, in addition to road dates with Jamiroquai, is
recording the upcoming Power Station album with Duran Duran’s
FACE
TECH
PLAY
LEARN
?
“Something About You ”
LINK
Med. dance
Gm7
TRANSCRIPTION
= 114
A
Intro
Andy Taylor—advises, “As I always do, try to get inside the groove.
The note durations are key, and the part sits in the middle of the
pocket. Listen to and try to lock with Derrick McKenzie’s drums,
and as Jay says, ‘Retain the boogie!’” BP
Transcription by Chris Jisi & Paul Turner
Gm7
Dm7
H
H
3 3
6
3
Cm7
3 5
3
Dm7
3
3
3
3
5 5
Gm7
5
5 7
5
Eb/F
5
5
5
Gm7
H
3 3
3
3
5
5
5
1
3 3
5
3
Dm7
11
3
3
3 4 4
3
H
3 5
1
1
1
3 3
3
C#m7 Cm7
3
3 5
3
Dm7
H
H
H
16
3
5 5
5
5 7
5
4
5
Gm7
5
B
4
5
F7
F7sus
3 3
F7sus
3
F7
3
5 5
F7sus
F7
5
5
F7sus
5 7
F7
H
3
20
3
3
Eb7
Eb7sus
2
4
5
3
Eb7
Eb7sus
4
6
3 5
3
3
Eb7
Eb7sus
2
4
3
2
Eb7
Eb7sus
4
6
4
6
B
B
Bsus Bsus
7
6
8
4
6
Bb
Bb
Bbsus Bbsus F7sus F7
6
4
6
6
F7sus
6
8
F7
8
Something About You
Words and Music by Matthew Johnson and Jason Kay. Copyright © 2017 BMG Rights Management (UK) Ltd. All Rights Administered by BMG
Rights Management (US) LLC. All Rights Reserved Used by Permission. Reprinted by Permission of Hal Leonard LLC
60
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F7
F7sus
25
4
C
31
F7
F7sus
6
6
Eb7
Eb7sus
8
2
Eb7
Eb7sus
4
4
Eb7
Eb7
Eb7sus
Eb7sus
4 4
6
4
Gm7
3
5
3
3
3 4 4
3
Gm7
5
5
3
1
5 5
5
5
3 3
5
5
H
5
5
3
5
D
46
3
3
Eb7
Eb7sus
50
3
2
5
5
F7susF7
4
Eb7
Eb7sus
1
5
1
3 3
3
3
2
bas0518_transcription_prod_f.indd 61
4
6
3 5
3
Dm7
4
3 3
3
F7susF7
6
6
33
4
Bbsus
Bb
6
6
H
8 10
5
8
3
3
T
H
3
3
2 3 4
PO
3
Eb7
Eb7sus
4
F7sus F7
T H
13
8 10 13
15
15
4
H
5 3
35
2
Bb
Bbsus
T
5
F7susF7
6
10
7
3
Gm7
5 5
F7susF7
8
B
B
Bsus Bsus
3
P
4
3 3
H
5 7
5
4
H
3 5
C#m7Cm7
5
5
Gm7
H
5 5
6
H
5 7
Eb/F
Dm7
41
7
4
Cm7
H
3 5
3
Dm7
36
6 6 4 4
4
Dm7
H
3 3
2
B
B
Bb Bb
D7 D7b9
Bsus Bsus Bbsus Bbsus D7sus D7sus
6
5
3
35
Eb7
Eb7sus
4
6
4
F7sus F7
6
8
bassplayer.com / m a y 2 0 1 8 61
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PLAY
LEARN
?
F7
F7sus
F7
F7sus
Eb7
Eb7sus
Eb7
Eb7sus
Eb7
Eb7
Eb7sus Eb7sus
TECH
54
P T
FACE
4
LINK
60
6
6
8
(2)
TRANSCRIPTION
4
4
6
2
4
Gm7
E
6
TR
S
4 5
7
(10)
H
H
3
6
Dm7
S
64
2
4
B
B
Bb Bb
D7
D7b9
Bsus Bsus Bbsus Bbsus D7sus D7sus
3
3
3 5
3
Cm7
3
3
3
3
Dm7
5
5
5
5 7
5
5
5
0
5
4
Gm7
3
H
3 3
3
3
3
5 5
5
5
1
3 3
3
3
3 3
3
3 5
3
3
3
3
2 3 4
5 5
5
5
5
Ab9#11
4 4
5
5
5
F
5
(3) 3
5 3 5
H
3
3
5
3 5
4
5 (3) 3 5
3
5
6 6
6
6 6
3 3
G
1
1
1
1 0
3
3
(3)
Ebmaj7
4 4
Ebmaj7
6
4
PO
Bbmaj7
4
3
H
5 7
Dm7
(5)(5)(3)
62
6 5 3 5
C#m7Cm7
H
83
5
3 5
Dm7
68
73
5
H PO
6 6 4 6
4 4
4
4
Ab9#11
4
4
4 4
4
4
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Bbmaj7
88
6
6
Ebmaj7
6
H
8 8 (6) 8
6
Ab9#11
6
4
4
4
6
4
Bbmaj7
92
4
4
4
4 4 4 4
Ebmaj7
H
17
6
6
6
6
6
Ab9#11
95
4
6
4
6
6
6
6
4
4
4
4
Bbmaj7
Repeat till fade
H
4
4
6
4
4
4
4
4
4
4
17
6
6
6
6
6
6
4
6
6
6
4
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D
By Jim Roberts
JON SIEVERT
Wheeler (left) interviewing
Michael Bloomfield for
Guitar Player in 1978
Remembering Tom Wheeler
Jim Roberts was
the founding editor
of Bass Player and
also served as the
magazine’s publisher
and group publisher.
He is the author of
How the Fender Bass
Changed the World
and American Basses:
An Illustrated History
& Player’s Guide (both
published by Backbeat
Books/Hal Leonard).
66
ON FEBRUARY 10, WE LOST A
giant. Tom Wheeler, the editor of Guitar
Player from 1981–91 and the founding
editorial director of Bass Player, died
unexpectedly at the age of 70. I was
stunned and saddened by the news, as
were many others who’d had the good
fortune to work with Tom.
Connecting with Tom changed my
life. In the 1980s, I was a working bass
player and aspiring music journalist. I’d
had some articles published in newspapers and magazines, but I really wanted
to write for Guitar Player, which I had
read for years. I started pitching stories
to Tom but didn’t have much luck at first.
He finally gave me the green light for a
feature that became the first of a dozen
articles (all but one about a bass player)
that I contributed to GP from 1987–89.
After GP and its sister publication,
Keyboard, were acquired by Miller Freeman Inc. in 1989, the new owners decided
they wanted to add more titles for musicians. Tom told me that one magazine
they had in mind was Bass Player.
Would I like to apply for a job?
What an unbelievable opportunity.
I interviewed to become BP’s founding
editor and was hired. I reported to Tom,
which meant that I worked closely with
him almost every day. I got an education in how to run a magazine, and I
also got an education in how to be the
kind of person who can succeed in that
role, interacting with artists, publicists,
managers, advertisers, printers, distributors, and—most important—readers.
Tom taught me that the chief editor’s
job was to connect the people who create
the magazine with the people who read
the magazine, a lesson I never forgot. I
could not have asked for a better mentor,
and I tried to absorb as much as I could,
from the right way to cover the “nuts and
bolts” of gear to how to conduct myself
at trade shows and other events where I
would be the public face of the magazine.
All of us who worked with Tom at BP
remember him with gratitude, and since
his death, we have been swapping messages with our recollections. Karl Coryat,
who was BP’s first assistant editor (and is
still onboard as consulting editor), wrote:
“On several occasions, Tom brought me
up to his office and had me watch over his
shoulder as he edited stories on his Mac
Plus. I couldn’t believe how fluid he was
editing a story, and he explained every
change that he made. Most memorable
was his ability to tighten sentences. He’d
reword something to half the length, and
then he’d say, ‘You don’t lose a thing!’
While editing BP stories over the past
28 years, that catchphrase has echoed in
my head hundreds of times.” Paul Haggard, who was BP’s first art director (and
remains in that position today), recalled:
“There were times he would be given a
layout to assess, and there would be several moments of palpable tension while
he would begin to slowly shake his head
side-to-side in a silent no signal, then
softly say, ‘Great.’”
That was Tom—brilliant and warm
and unfailingly gracious in sharing his
knowledge. At first, finding a note saying
see tw in the margin of a story would
scare me, because I knew he had spotted a big problem. Over time, though, I
grew to treasure those editorial conferences with Tom, because I always learned
something valuable. Bass Player could
not have succeeded without his knowledge
and guidance. After he left our offices for
the University of Oregon, where he would
teach journalism for the next 27 years, we
kept his name on the BP masthead, as consulting editor, for a year. He was our sage.
I last spoke with Tom when I interviewed him about his seventh book,
The Fender Archives, for an article that
ran in BP’s March ’15 issue. He was the
same thoughtful guy I had known as a
rookie editor, enthusiastically describing his research and telling me how he
had assembled the materials in the book
“like a museum curator.” I’m very sorry
I’ll never hear his voice again, but I’ll
never forget how much I learned from
him. Rest in peace, my friend. BP
bassplayer.com / m a y 2 0 1 8
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