Keep an Eye on Bassist Doug Johns
Doug came onto the scene with his new solo debut “Doug Johns”, and has caught a lot of attention. His building tour schedule keeps him busy, as well as his emerging role as a clinician. He’s jumped right into events such as Bassquake and Bassbash, and is already working on his next CD. We’ve also brought him onboard as one of our new staff writers, a testament to his unique voice. This man has something to say.
Jake: Let’s talk about your debut CD. What inspired you to take the direction that you did as far as material goes?
Doug: Quite honestly, a lot of it is material we’ve recorded over the years. Sessions where we would come in, finish a track, and then one of the players would say, I’ve got an idea, lets go for it, and keep right on recording. After we started putting this together and editing it all down, it turned out to be quite diverse, and I know people say this a lot, but it’s really just the tip of the iceberg.
Jake: So this is an ongoing process.
Doug: Yes it is. Actually, I try to get a recording every month if possible, either doing a duo with my drummer, or some type of group effort. I’m always recording in that kind of “Zappa” way.
Jake: How involved were you in the writing for this CD?
Doug: I hate to use numbers, but probably 60-70% of the music is my material. But a great part of this writing is more of a collaborative effort with my drummer Chris, and keyboard player Mark. That’s kind of the core band, and we work off of each other in the writing process. This I believe allows the focus of the music to be on the song, and not a heavily “bass” centered cut. Just give me something I can whistle when I leave, you know.
Jake: Best that you can answer this, what do you think was the primary motivation for you to debut a solo CD, and put Doug Johns up front?
Doug: Wow—the first thing that came up in my mind was, shit or get off the pot. I feel it’s time to give it a go, and let people hear what I’ve got to offer. I believe it viable, and really, in my opinion, it’s nothing but soul music, and I think there’s room for that out there. If something is real, if it’s truthful, I think it will come across, and that became the driving force to do this project, and its got me excited, and I’m already working on the next CD.
Jake: I know you feel strongly about your role as a bassist within an ensemble—care to elaborate on that.
Doug: Yes, very much so. I think in this day and age it’s very easy for the role of the bass to more or less get lost. With the advent of fewer jam sessions and more videos (technique, technique, technique) I’m very adamant about knowing your role as a bass player. Horn players, guitar players, singers and the like can more or less stick and jab at a tune, but from beat 1, our job is to lay it down. I know that sounds cliché, but I feel it’s getting lost. It’s our job to get things moving so the horns and guitars “have” something to put it on top of.
Jake: You’ve done some work with Victor Wooten. Being such a strong voice in the bass community as he is, in a number of ways, must have made that quite an experience for you.
Doug: He was just here a couple of weeks ago, and every time he’s here we hook up and play. I’d like to say it this way, good friends first, which has created a mutual respect for each other. The thing I dig about Victor the most is that he’s a great human being, and he just happens to play bass. I think you’ll always find that true, the greatest cats are always great people. Beyond that, I can’t begin to tell you the inspiration that Victor has given me.
Jake: Who else have you been listening to that keeps you inspired, and practicing?
Doug. I’m a big drummer fanatic—Weckl, Vinny, Gadd, and Chambers of course, and as of late, Steve Smith who I did a session with not to long ago. For some reason I always gravitate towards drummers, and more times than not, what comes along with a great drummer is a great bass player. Speaking of bass players, Richard Bona totally flips my head. Then there’s Gonzolo Rubacata, Cuban piano player. I’m a huge fan of his work. I’m also a big Zappa head as well, and as clichéd as it is, still a big Weather Report fan.
Jake: I know you have some events coming up in the near future—tell me where you’ll be.
Doug: With this whole “solo” thing, I’m learning the process of management more than anything. I’ve learned that it takes more than talent alone. I’m doing Bassquake very soon in California, and was able to pick up some club dates while I’m there as well. I’ll also be doing Bassbash this year at the Namm show.
I’m looking forward to both those gigs. It’s a hard road, but it’s very fulfilling, and even though I still see myself as simply kind of a bass for hire, I’m glad to be part of all these projects that are coming my way.
For more information, visit www.dougjohns.com