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Austen Howell, Bass Musician Magazine Q&A

Austen Howell, Bass Musician Magazine Q&ABass Musician Magazine Q&A with Mike Frost

Name:

Austen Howell

Born In What City:

San Antonio, TX

Current Band(s) I Play With: 

Trees Above Mandalay

Former Bands I Have Played With: 

The Title, 96

CD’s I’ve Released/ Been a Part Of:

Trees Above Mandalay “Growing Pains”

The Title “Why Stop Now”

The Title “Safe With Me”

96 “D.O.T.D. EP”

96 “The Blizzard EP”

Describe The Way You Play Bass:

I would not say I’m a “professional” by any means. I don’t mean that in a self-deprecating way, I just feel I still have a lot left to learn and experience as a musician. If this were a journey, it would be far from over. Every show you play a little better, every band you play with, you learn something from them and apply it to your style. I would have to describe my style as “evolving,” one that is always changing and learning and assimilating to the situation.

What Made Me Decide to Play Bass: 

My dad played bass when he was my age, how cool. Can’t say that didn’t have some influence. But it began with my first band in 6th grade, back then just saying you and your friends were in a band was close enough, it was 6th grade. But after we got all the excitement out of our systems that we were going to be big, famous punk rockers, I realized they all really did play instruments, and I didn’t. It played out just as it would if you were picking teams for dodge-ball, and I got stuck with the fat kid… bass. Nothing against bass, that’s just how it happened. But really it was awesome and I wouldn’t have changed a thing. My bass has taken me places I never would have imagined I’d go, to see some amazing sights and meet some unforgettable people.

Musical Influences:

I grew up on pop music like the B-52’s, and a lot of Michael Jackson. When I finally was old enough to take the reins I would love to rock my Sony Walkman with my dad’s Rush cassettes, but when songs like Nirvana’s “Smell’s like Teen Spirit” and Offspring’s “Come Out and Play” came out I was hooked. Lately I’ve found a deep love for hip-hop and rock & role’s forefathers. It’s something like all that mixed up.

Favorite Musical Styles:

Punk Rock has definitely made the biggest impact on my life, so that goes first and foremost, and everything heavy. From Led Zeppelin to Lady Gaga… really I love it all and couldn’t say I don’t enjoy at least one song from any genre you’d want to try and make up. It’s hard to discredit a genre or someone’s artistic vision. Sure there are songs or artists that I don’t enjoy but that doesn’t discredit their work. I’m not a huge country fan, but hey that’s not to say I won’t ever be.

My Bass(es):

Mexican Fender Precision Bass

’91 Gibson Thunderbird

My Amps and Other Gear:

Head: Ampeg SVT III

Cabinet: Ampeg 8×10

Pedals: Tech 21 Sansamp Bass Driver DI

Best Bass Advice You Ever Received:

Listen to the drums. Most bassists I know wish they were the guitarist, whether they admit it or not. But the drums are really your best friend. Listen to the drums and really get a feel for whats going on in a song.

One Piece Of Advice For Other Bassists:

Listen to the drums, and know your levels. Don’t feel left out because you’re not shredding it with the guitars, bass and drum are the foundation of the whole thing; adjust to the drummer and create have a strong foundation, then shred.

Favorite Quote or Life Philosophy: 

If you don’t hear the songs you hear in your heart then sing them. If you don’t see the movies you want to see, film them. Believe in yourself and the things you love, the ways you feel and the way you want to be. Don’t feel as if you need to fit in a mold, as corny as it sounds, and don’t be fooled into thinking that something is good or rather better than something, live by your own standards.

Most Amazing Gig so Far: 

I’d have to say my first show with my band Trees Above Mandalay goes down as one of my favorite gigs. It was a night where everything was just right. All my friends were there and there were kid’s singing along to every word. I had practiced so hard and I finally got to let loose and melt some faces. It was in a crummy dank basement of a venue bellow a fancy restaurant and everyone could care less as they smoked their cigarettes indoors and underage kids drank and rocked out for $5. That sounds like a dream gig to me.

Dream Gig:

Any gig is like a dream. It’s a step away from the mundane and repetitiveness of things. It’s unreal that I can just drop everything, hop in a smelly van with my friends and rock out on a stage or someone’s basement on any given night of the week. It’s unreal that kids, mom and dads, even employees of the venues I play at, know my songs and sing along… and for that night we all shared that moment.

Most Embarrassing Moment on Stage:

There are plenty, some not so appropriate, but they do exist I will say, no ones perfect. My first show with Trees Above Mandalay was a blast, a real head-banger to say the least. I was jumping around, I was pumped up and my blood was flowing, one of those nights where everyone was turned up to 11, both the band and the crowd. I remember there was a little pause in one of our songs where me and our guitarist caught one another’s attentions and gave each other that look, the “this is awesome, I’m rockin’ out, you’re rocking’ out, let’s rock!” look and we both went in for that epic head-bang—smashed our skulls together like two ripe coconuts. But we were so amped up that it was just as if it was part of the song and we kept going until we felt it the next morning.

Favorite Tip to Share on Traveling With Your Bass: 

Have your equipment organized and packed, ready to go. Travel light. And if you don’t need that giant Ampeg 8×10 cab, then don’t get it… I need it.

What Would You Be Doing If You Weren’t A Musician:

I’d be drawing cartoons or comic books or something dorky like that.

The Question No One Ever Asks Me, But I Have Been Dying to Share:

If you’re so smart, why aren’t you rich? Money can’t buy happiness.

What You Can Look Forward to From Me This Year: 

Look out for my band Trees Above Mandalay‘s newest release “Growing Pains“, which came out on February 19th, and for many more future releases in 2013.

Find Me Online: 

twitter.com/austentrees

twitter.com/treesnj

facebook.com/treesabovemandalay

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