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Bass Musician Magazine: Aug/Sep 2009 Anniversary Issue Featuring Michael Manring

Interview by Editor Jake Kot

Michael Manring has been one of the forerunners of expanding the voice of electric bass for quite some time, and after seeing him live just a few weeks ago, he reminded me that his devotion to yet more uncharted territory on this instrument just doesn’t seem to end.

Amidst an arsenal of Zon Basses and effects, what keeps my respect at such a high level for him is that the technology and the techniques always run a distant 2nd to the integrity of the composition. As far as setting a “mood” (I should say a variety of moods) within a tune on an instrument, this man seems to own that position hands down.

Another admirable quality of this seriously inventive musician is that his musicianship is only surpassed by his humble and appreciative demeanor to his listening audience… a world-class kinda guy. It’s always been interesting to ask in some kind of eloquent manner after listening to a particularly difficult solo endeavor he’s made look ridiculously easy … just how do you do that, much less conceive the idea?

These days I’m loving speaking in terms of a 21st century artist, and Michael certainly fits that paradigm to a tee. If genres could evolve as intrinsically and quickly as this man has on his instrument, who knows what we’d be listening to at this point in time. This unique player is an excellent example of an artist displaying a forward thinking approach, and if you’re unfamiliar with him, check out the videos within the article and see how fast you’re catching yourself thinking… how does he do that?

Jake: Let’s step back here if we can. What were some of your earliest remembrances of you starting to see this instrument in such a different light?

Michael: I kind of had a feeling about it right from the beginning. When I was a kid in the sixties, I just started hearing the instrument little by little. In those days, as you’ll remember, all the sound systems we had were really poor, and they didn’t mix the bass very loud, and you would have a hard time hearing it. And then there was a time when people started to kind of push the bass up in the mixes a little bit, and then little by little you would start to hear it cut through the mix. You’d hear that in some of the Beatles music and some of the Motown tracks. So I started hearing this instrument and started listening to the sound quality and the timbre of it. And I just had this feeling that it was something important, but I couldn’t put it into words. As I’ve grown older, I’ve come to understand what that feeling was that I had about it. And I have the same feeling about it now when I hear it.

Jake: This is kind of an obvious question, but have there been certain players that have driven that feeling to a certain extent?

Michael: Early on I became a sponge for everything—I listened to everything that I could during that whole explosion of music that was happening then. I had some guys that I liked more than others, and some of my friends thought I was too eclectic in my listening tastes because I was listening to literally everything. I kind of drew it all in and tried to learn from everything. In those days it was pop music, and rock and funk, and then later on I got very into jazz in my teenage years. Of course Jaco Pastorius was a big deal. We hadn’t really thought of the bass with that kind of musical depth, at least electric bass. And so for a lot of us, I think that was the introduction into a really deeper way of thinking about music in general. As far as our own emotional and intellectual development was concerned, it really provided kind of a link to looking at music in a little bit deeper way.

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