Formed in the Mecca of American culture and musical innovation (New York city), and molded by a scene as diverse as it is beautifully eccentric, Consider The Source has found its niche. Rising steadily as a well-known face on the jam/world/progressive band scenes since their inception in 2004, this trio of singular musical characters has become a name to be reckoned with.
With a name that implies a reflection of the personalities in the band, bringing forth the essence of the ensemble, they have become a sound that is at its highest praise- truly unique. Imagine a cross between Screaming Headless Torsos, Phish, your favorite Indian musician, and a dose of some fine old-fashioned imagination, and your half way to CTS.
The sheer virtuosity of Gabriel Marin’s guitar talent is the heart of the bands exotic and adventurous sounds. A fretless guitar virtuoso whose microtonal adventures rival those of many eastern musicians, and a talent for rhythm and nuttiness that only a rhythm section of John Ferrera and Jeff Mann (a truly gifted drummer) can compete with.
John by definition is composers’ bassist. A tried and true nerd of the low end that translates the mystery of chops into a musical and improvisational environment that works for both. As a bassist who has trailed a similar path, it is always refreshing to hear a rising star that builds on destroying the myth that chops and composition are two separate talents. Just because you can slap like a bastard does not mean you cant write a good melody or write a nasty tune.
He was kind enough to answer some question while in the process of writing and recording the bands new record.
Here is what he had to say….
So first off…. How did you start off in music, and what eventually led you to the wonderful world of bass guitar?
Well my dad got me started actually. He’s an incredible guitarist. I’ve always looked up to him in that sense. Ever since he was a kid, he has lived and breathed music. I was around 13 when we infected me. He handed me a bass and taught me how to play “Hey Joe”, knowing that I was a huge Hendrix fan. I was definitely intrigued and took to it pretty quickly, but it wasn’t til another bass player friend of the family made me a slap bass mix tape that I became obsessed. From then on it was all Primus, Wooten, Jonas Hellborg and Miller for the first years.
When was the moment when you realized the chemistry in CTS was something special and interesting?
It was the very first time we played together. We just met up and jammed one day and were struck by that feeling: YES!! Right off the bat, we knew we had something special. We had three very different outlooks on music, different from the mainstream yet different from one another and blended perfectly. Before that initial meeting, I had put the bass down for a while, I wasn’t finding a connection it felt more like ego then passion. I kept comparing my playing to others who were doing certain techniques better, had more knowledge of jazz or were more academically trained. It wasn’t until CTS first jammed that I realized why I felt a disconnectedness. I wanted something different out of music, to express only what I wanted to express, to learn only the things that called to me personally, to improvise with a weirdo slap technique or crazy sound effects or out there odd time bass lines that other pre-existing genres didn’t seem to allow. I think we all felt that way, liberated to have a platform where we could all have our voices heard.
As a fellow bassist who can recognize your following of Wootonion Physics (waka waka), how did that approach in chops learning influence you positively?
You clever boy you… To be honest, as much as I adore Wooten, I never really took to that approach and by that I mean I tried and failed the double thumb technique for while and then decided to develop my own thing. I listened to a lot of players who were great at slapping and tapping but also a lot of drummers and percussionists. I asked myself questions like, how can I replicate the sound of a clave and keep a bassline going? Or how could I represent double bass drumming through slap bass? First I would experiment based on what I thought might work. After the trial and error process I’d figure out a way that might work and I’d make exercises based on it to build a language with which to express myself. For example, I figured out some slap rudiments after listening to south Indian Kanjira player, Ganesh Kumar (who I had the honor of studying with for a brief time), wrote them all down, wrote some riffs based on them and the next thing you know, it became part of the way I express myself musically.
For many readers who are not familiar with many of the exotic sounds utilized in your songs, what are some artists that would allow them to get familiar with CTS and their sound?
Definitely check out Jonas Hellborgs group ICON, as well as his album “Good People in Times of Evil.” Shawn Lane is on guitar, with a Indian Rhythm section and vocalist. It’s unbelievable stuff. Also Matt Darriau’s Paradox Trio who does like a klezmer, jazz thing with an amazing cellist named Rufus Cappadocio. Rufus is also in a group named Kif with Dave Fiuczynski and their first album floored us all! There are tons of other jazz players like Avishai Cohen, The Bad Plus (best band ever!!!!), John Mclaughlin and Chick Corea. Then there are Eastern European and Indian players too like Yuri Yunakov and U. Srinivas who are unbelievably inspiring soloists. For our harder side we look to bands like Meshuggah, Tool, Primus, and King Crimson. Of course there’s a ton more but that’s a good start.
Lets cut the B.S. all these magazines skip… What is your favorite way of handling and enjoying touring life? The moments between the stage and sound check… that allow sanity to still be a life factor? Keep it PG-13 please ha-ha
Ha, don’t worry; PG 13 will be easy here. We are avid readers. There was one tour where I read 8 books in a month, dystopian novels mostly which in retrospect wasn’t the best idea. Aside from keeping yourself occupied while driving across the cartoonish repetitive background of Montana, books aid in the writing process as well, giving you fresh perspectives for inspiration.
I also do things to more directly affect my performance like, exercising in the morning, meditating and practicing like crazy in the van. We play demanding music so I need to stay on my A game at all times.
Lastly, keeping in touch with my loved ones, friends, family and girlfriend is very important. Between the long stressful drives, always playing and keeping your head in the game; it’s very easy to lose sight of the big picture and hearing a familiar voice outside of it all is very grounding.
What made you decided on your custom Fodera Monarch and Hartke amps to deliver the CTS sound?
In CTS, I act as part bassist, part percussionist, and part rhythm guitarist so I need a bass and amp that are versatile and can aid in getting my points across with ease. I’ve been playing Hartke amps since I was a teenager and sort of developed as a player with those amps. They’ve become synonymous with my sound. They allow for the mids to really shine through and my playing is predominantly in that range. Slap bass lines cut through with such clarity and I never feel like I’m treading on my band mates frequencies.
I’ve had a crush on Foderas, since I saw them on display at a Bass Day clinic when I was kid. I played one and fell in love. Years later when I was already in CTS for a few years, I decided that the sound that I was going for, the techniques that I were working on, and the song ideas I was coming up with were not quite coming to fruition. I knew it was largely due to the basses that I was using. I needed a sleek, light bass that could be ballsy, but delicate; that could be easy to play on but also have the versatility of sound, which often doesn’t go with easily playable basses. Fodera’s have it all. If I need to do a fast tapping unison run, the thin neck and cut away makes it physically easy, while the EMG’s and Mike Pope pre-amp give enough tonal leeway to go for it. I got that bass and immediately started writing with more confidence, and going for things I always wanted to go for while improvising.
What is the mentality you utilize to mesh with Gabe’s avante garde style of microtonal improv?
The mentality is to not force anything to happen. By not trying, reactivity can just be and the meshing just happens as a byproduct of it. Gabe likes to solo with a very aggressive background, everyone firing at full force. So my job is to not only be the anchor, but also be a generator of new ideas for him to work with. It’s kind of a revolving door of ideas being thrown back and forth by listening to what else is going on. I do the opposite of what he does a good portion of the time. We all play very fast and technical kind of stuff, but if we’re only doing that, it sounds cluttered and it seems like a novelty; which I think is what happens with most players who “shred.” Thinking contrarily opens up space and allows the intensity to exist and progress. For example, we have a song called “Keep your pimp had strong” which has a guitar solo in it, but it’s a very interactive kind of section as well. The song has a 12312312 feel to it. So I’ll typically start of the solo section with a slap bass line expressing that rhythm. I listen to see where he goes. If he starts with a long held out note, I ride the bass line out for a bit and start throwing some fast-syncopated lines for him to weave an idea out of. If he starts a bit faster, syncing up with what I do, I’ll slowly work my way into a chordal thing up the neck perhaps and let him take that register. Anyway, these are just ideas that I had off the top of my head but the method changes every night.
How did you team up with Fodera to make your sound?
The Fodera guys knew me because I went into the shop years before to get my 4 string Monarch. Years later they saw me play with Victor Wooten at the Highline Ballroom in NYC, and I got to hang with them again. Last year, when the band started getting more well known, touring internationally and such, we had a conversation about me becoming an endorser. I told them that I’ve played their bass on every CTS show and album since I got it and want to only play their basses. The rest is history. It’s an honor to be part of the family. They work so hard and with so much love for every instrument they make and they achieve greatness every time. I’m currently waiting on my next bass, a 5 string monarch with a high C and Khaler bridge and I have big plans to use it all over our next album.
How has the writing process for the new material been going?
I’ve never been so excited to record an album in my life. The new material is the most challenging stuff we’ve ever worked on. We just spent an entire month off getting to know the next album as a whole and discussing the layout of it; what songs will lead into what songs and throwing around ideas of how to tie in motifs and so on. We’re introducing a lot of new sounds.
On this album I’m really trying to think about the song first, not forcing a part into a song that has no business being there. There are certain pieces that I’m developing techniques specifically for which require constant maintenance. I’m putting in a lot of time to develop them while keeping my mind loose. It’s easy to get obsessed to the point of forgetting where the idea for the technique was born. So I’ve been playing the songs in my head over and over again to remind myself what the part is supposed to sound like to make sure that what I’ve been practicing is leading me there.
Gabe and Jeff are also taking painstaking measures to make sure the songs come into their own. Gabe is using some new equipment that is adding a whole new dynamic and allowing for new possibilities in so many ways; while Jeff is also experimenting with different set ups, samples and percussive gadgets to make each song have its own flavor. This is Jeff’s first album with us and it’s been really exciting seeing the ideas he’s been coming up with for these songs.
What has been your favorite road story so far?
In the early days before we knew anything about how to tour in a successful way, Justin and I did our own booking and we’d just book any old show we could get, play for nobody, get paid nothing and it was sometimes really hard keeping your spirits up when your met with so much adversity. Add to that the fact that we’re a three piece, instrumental, middle eastern, prog, metal, jazz band with no pre-existing genre to fit in. So we played in Baltimore on one of these first tours and afterwards we went to stay with our roadie’s brother who lived there. I’m very allergic to cats and when we arrived in my over tired, bummed out state, in the darkness of some strangers house, I unknowingly plopped down on a coach that was coated half an inch thick in cat hair. Once I realized that my constant sneezing and asphyxia was getting progressively worse by the minute I realized what I was sleeping on. Sleep was just not in the cards. It was almost 6 am at this point so I decided to wander Baltimore and see what it was about. Once outside, everything went right. It was a beautiful day, 65 degrees in the middle of winter. I walked to the water and found a Barnes and Nobles and read outside for a while. Later I wandered some more and stumbled on a philosophy, science and art museum. I practiced outside and ran into one of the few people who were at the show the night before and he told me he was floored by the performance. To this day that was one of the best days of my touring life. Unexpected things that remind you that the job you have is hard at times but way more awesome than anything.
Finally, what does the future hopefully hold for you and the CTS crew?
We want to travel the world playing music that unites. We have a lot of ambitions as far as pieces to write, concepts for albums and things to embiggen (yes, embiggen is a real word look it up) our live show. I can’t go into detail about them now because I don’t want to put any undue pressure on any future projects, but you can expect to see a lot of different sides to CTS.
We also have an incredible fan base that have always been good to us and spreads the CTS word like crazy. Getting to hang with them after shows reminds me that we’re on the right path and gives me the confidence that we’ll keep growing and being able to explore.
John Ferrara Bio
Growing up in a musical household, John took up the bass guitar at age 13, and has been relentlessly exploring the possibilities of the instrument as a member of sci-fi fusion trio Consider the Source since 2004. John’s style blends deep grooves, drum’n’bass rhythms, contrapuntal tapping, dense chords, and classical Indian percussion, with shades of avant-garde experimentation and thundering metal. Using a plethora of thumbing and slapping techniques, inspired as much by drummers and DJs as by other bassists, John’s interlocking layers of rhythm and melody are integral to the trio’s colossal sound. With
an equal focus on rigid composition and wide-open improvisation, John’s fluid, unorthodox playing serves the music while pushing its boundaries. John has studied with South Indian kanjira master Ganesh Kumar, and has shared the stage with Victor Wooten, George Porter, Jr., The Crimson Projekct, and Wayne Krantz. He is endorsed by Hartke Amplification and Fedora Basses. Consider the Source’s latest album, F@*k It! We’ll Do It Live, is available at considerthesource-nyc.bandcamp.com/album/f-k-it-well-do-it-live. He can be contacted at [email protected]