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Interview with Billy Sheehan… | Rock Bass: Artist Spotlight with Biscuit

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Meet Biscuit –

Billy Sheehan is to many a living legend having played with his own bands Talas, Light years, Niacin, BX3, and also Mr. Big. He has also been featured on tracks for many major artists around the world over the years. Billy has played it all during his career as a bass player, millions of notes played and millions of records sold…here is a real master of his craft. Let’s put the spotlight on Mr. Billy Sheehan.
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BISCUIT: Hi Billy, it’s great to have you talk with me for Bass Musician Magazine my friend. I would like to start by talking about the recent reunion tour with Mr Big. How did that all go for you and the guys?

BILLY: Smooth as silk, it was a real blast. We had a great time and all the shows sold out. The last show in Yokohama was the best of all and we actually filmed the previous one the night before at the Budokan which was great, but Yokohama being the last show of the tour is always something special.

BISCUIT: How long were the sets?

BILLY: Oh, they were about two and a half hours long, and sometimes close to three on some occasions… we pushed real hard out there.

BISCUIT: They Love Mr Big in Japan don’t they…you must have played in some pretty cool arenas over there.

BILLY: Yeah, they like Mr Big a lot, and we were in a lot of ways the biggest western band out there for a long time, and on this tour we played everything from twelve to eighteen hundred seat arena’s, right up to the Osaka dome. I played with a domestic Japanese band out there and that market is about ten times larger than for the western bands that play in Japan. I played on one single and it sold around three million units in one day and the band I played with sold more records than Madonna, and they don’t really play anywhere out side Japan.

BISCUIT: When was the last time you played with Mr Big before the reunion, I believe it was quite a while ago?

BILLY: With Paul Gilbert in the band… it was around 1996 I think and “Hey Man” was the last of the four studio records, and then there was a greatest hit’s album also, where we did a bonus track called “Stay together” which became a really popular track, especially when we performed it live.

BISCUIT: Since those days you have been very busy with various other projects such as Niacin, BX3, and of course the solo records like “Compression” and “Cosmic Troubadour”. Were you pleased with the sales and reviews and the overall success of those projects? And when you embark on your solo efforts, do you feel more musically free, or do you find it just as challenging as working for another artist or band?

BILLY: No rest for the wicked eh, ha ha. With regards to the solo stuff, I don’t look at it that way really, it’s just a different set of ideas. I never feel constricted in anything I do anyway, so even if I am asked to play with someone who insists that my bass parts are exactly what they want, for example Steve Vai, I enjoy doing that very much. When you play with someone who requires you to conform exactly to their idea’s, that is a challenge in it’s self, and I think it should be a part of every musicians makeup to learn how to do that. It’s a discipline that we all need to have ,and when you are working with someone like Steve Vai , he is not going to have you do something that you are not happy with, and his ideas are always very good anyway of course so that makes it kind of easier too. Steve Vai’s music is a very specialised type of thing, and that makes it all a very creative and special.

BISCUIT: I would like to talk to you now about your latest solo album “HOLY COW “, which was released on April 14th this year, if I am not mistaken.

BILLY: Yeah, I believe so, and these days, I look at any album as a “new album” for about two years, as it takes about that long for it to settle in. It’s not the same media that we used to have where people would know about your record within the first couple of days.

BISCUIT: There are fourteen tracks on this new album which in my book makes that a real value for money, especially considering the quality of the tracks within.

BILLY: Yeah, that’s a real bunch, eh. I had all these extra tracks left, and I liked them all and wanted to include them all on the record, but there were a couple that didn’t quite make it. But I will get them out there at some point in the future hopefully.

BISCUIT: How long did it take you to complete “HOLY COW”?

BILLY: In actual fact, start to finish, it was probably only around two months to put it all together, but it was spread out over a long period of time. I wrote the tracks similar to how I did it in the old days when I used to sit down with a cassette player and crank out all the song parts, remember them, and then put all the bits together as songs. It was a little different this time though because I used a built in camera on my Mac, and quick time to record by way of video. So I would sit there with my Mac open and a glass of wine on hand and fool around on the guitar until I came up with a suitable part, and then I would record that guitar part on the video explaining to myself on the video exactly what I meant. So it was like another guy talking to me later on saying … o.k., here’s the chorus and the chord fingering etc. So when it came to laying down the tracks, I had all these little movies telling me what to do and it made it like a kind of band experience.

BISCUIT: Half a dozen Billy Sheehan’s…Awesome! When you had done all of your parts, I imagine it was great then meeting up with Doug Pinnick and Billy Gibbons and getting them to help you out on the rest of the music and vocals for the record.

BILLY: Oh God yeah, those guys are two of my favourite people in the whole world and they both happen to be from Texas, so we had Texas week in my home here. Doug’s voice is just spectacular, and the song was perfect for him. Doug is a great guy with an amazing voice and he really killed that track. And then when Billy Gibbons came in it was great too. I have been lucky enough to hang with him a bunch of times before and he is just a living legend and a real wonderful guy. I actually got the hammer on technique through watching ZZ Top opening up for Alice Cooper in 1974 I think it was, and it was the first time I ever saw a guy use his right hand on the neck of a guitar, and that guy was of course Billy Gibbons. Billy is a real hero of mine and to have him round my house recording on my album was amazing. He also did other bits between the vocals too. He is a wonderful guy, who is sweet and generous, plus this guy is a walking wardrobe of encyclopaedic knowledge about so many subjects, and a hell of a good guy to hang with. And on the subject of hero’s … I have to mention Tim Bogert of course, who is a real hero of mine on bass and a massive influence on my playing. So I must acknowledge Tim as the guy I stole most of my stuff from, and Tim is a real great guy as well by the way.

BISCUIT: Returning back to the album again Billy, I understand that you did the harmonica parts on the record too, is that right?

BILLY: Yeah, I love the harmonica and I was a big fan of Keith Relf from the Yard birds, I really love his playing. He inspired me right away to try the harmonica, and I loved the Yard birds too.

BISCUIT: You had Paul Gilbert play the solo on the track “Dynamic Exhilarator”… in fact there were two solos on that one, were there not?

BILLY: Yeah…the first one starts and then takes off and climbs and soars and finally explodes, and you think wow, how can he top that on the second one, and then he actually does it… Wow! I went over to Paul’s house and we hung out and that planted the seed for the later Mr Big reunion. It was great getting back together with Paul and we had a real blast. Soon after that he called me and we ended up jamming at one of his shows in L.A. We played some Mr Big stuff and the audience went crazy, then soon after that we got in touch with Eric Martin again and the reunion was on. I am happy and thankful that the solo on “Dynamic Exhilarator” was one of the first steps we made to being able to play together again.

BISCUIT: Personally I love that track, it’s a real Sheehan Monster, and it has real energy and is a fun track too.

BILLY: Ha Ha, yeah…there is a real element of a sense of humour in there. When I wrote the piece, I just thought it would be perfect for Paul because he certainly has a sense of humour about his playing, and he just did the perfect set of solos for that track, and I was really thankful to have him on the record.

BISCUIT: I would like to ask you about a couple of the slower tracks on the album. The first one is “Make it to Another Day” and the second one, “Turning Point”. They show a real gentle relaxed side of your playing, but at the same time I notice the same intensity and love of each and every note that you play. Whether you play very fast, or slow, and melodic, you always manage to get every note across clearly.

BILLY: Absolutely! I think that in a ballad or a slow song, the intensity has a lot of room to come out and every note should be grabbed like your life depended on it. I have tried to do that with all the ballads I have done over the years and I really enjoy playing the laid back stuff. I think there is a real art to it, and it’s a real challenge to really get as much out of your bass with a couple of notes as you can with a thousand… that’s always a cool thing.

BISCUIT: I totally agree with you there, and you seem to have covered all the basses on this album…you have captured the slow and the quick, the smooth, the funk and the rock too. It’s all in there, and I think this new release of yours will be a real “Monster” for sure.

BILLY: Thanks a lot bro….Yeah. I love a lot of different styles of music and I really encourage people to be like that also, as you should not just dismiss a certain style of music just because it is different. Although it is not particularly my style of playing, I really love a lot of the bass slap players like Stu Hamm, Victor Wooten, and Marcus Miller…those guys are awesome man. I do a little slap in my own way, but every time I hang out with those guys, we have a wonderful time, and that’s fantastic, and we are all great friends. Take Jeff Berlin as well, who is not really a slap player at all, but is a supreme monster player and I don’t know how he does it. So all those guys are very different, but all awesome in their own way.

BISCUIT: Speaking of diversity, I would like to bring you to another one of your new tracks from the album, which I like a lot, and it’s “Sweat on an E string”…now that’s what I really call Drum ‘n’ Bass brother.

BILLY: That one was all done on just one string bro. I learnt a lot of Bach Cello pieces early on just by ear, so I used that technique. Because the Cello was tuned differently, I had to do a lot of moving up and down the neck real fast to get from one part to the other. So “Sweat on an E string” was just an extension of that technique.

BISCUIT: My two particular favourite tracks on the album would have to be “Cell Towers” and “Swimming Underwater”. There are some beautifully smooth sounding and very flowing bass parts on those songs…they are really lovely tracks.

BILLY: Yeah, “Swimming Underwater” was a twelve string piece I did on guitar and I didn’t really ever think about what I was going to do for the bass line at the time. I kind of went free form initially and when all those things were working, I just thought that I would do a repeatable theme and just fill in the blanks. I am glad I didn’t think it through a lot, as I am not really a fan of really calculated arrangements, or playing…same with my writing. I like to let nature take its course, though either way is fine and valid in its own right. I also love playing and writing with my acoustic baritone twelve string which was made for me by Yamaha. It’s a spectacular instrument and I love to write on that one a lot. The “Cell Towers” track was really tough, and I lost a lot of skin from my index finger on that one. I went for it in a big way because when the red light comes on to record, I always push way harder than usual, and I don’t really know why that is, it just kind of happens.

BISCUIT: Recording or live, you always push way hard for me. I wanted to move onto another side of your bass playing life, which is the bass clinics that you do all over the world. What would you say that you enjoy most about doing the clinics?

BILLY: I see it as a good way to keep my finger on the pulse of what’s going on in the musical community, and also for those guys to find out a little about what I am doing at the time also. I really preach to people to just get out there and form a band, learn some songs, and just play as much as you can. But that can be a real uphill battle sometimes, I’m telling you. So many guys are skipping the cake and going right for the frosting in terms of their playing. I played in a bar band for a decade before I even thought about writing a song. I think it’s really important to just learn songs and play, and you really have to watch the drummer closely, “the” most important guy for you as a bass player. You can get to all the hammering and tapping later, but boy you have to just play some real bass first bro.

BISCUIT: So start at the front and work your back side off and the rest will follow, eh Billy.

BILLY: Yeah, but also the most important thing is to be able to play in time of course. You have to get people tapping their foot while they are playing that bass, because it’s amazing just how many people can’t do it…they just can’t keep time… really!

BISCUIT: All wise words indeed my friend. So to some that all up, you are saying listen to and learn as many songs as you can from different genres, and just play, play, play, and get the timing right on the nail with the drummer, right?

BILLY: Yeah bro, right on. Don’t worry about that sixty fourth note stuff at the beginning, and besides, there are very few hit records around that have that in there anyway.

BISCUIT: Apart from your particular style of playing, you also have your own unique sound as well, and it’s quite distinctive. So how do you get that “Billy Sheehan” tone?

BILLY: Well, a lot of it was sitting around with the bass and no amp at all. I wanted to be able to hear all the notes clearly. But when I plugged into an amp, that clear sound was sometimes quite hard to get hold of, and I wanted to hear what I hear when I am sitting in a quiet room just with my bass, you know? A little bit of compression helped to make the bass sound the way it did just sitting in my lap. Of course too much is no good, but it’s just trial and error, and it just kind of evolved for me. I never had a particular goal regarding how my bass should sound initially other than that I wanted to hear the notes loudly and clearly. I discovered that it required more mid range. A lot of bass players use a lot of top range and a lot of low end too…. they call it the smiley curve because the graphic EQ looks like a big smiley face. If I had the EQ set that way, I would hear the rumble and the clackety clack, but I couldn’t hear which note it was. So I do almost the reverse, where I pull the high end down and pop a little mid range up there and that helps to get a more “woodier” tone and more harmonic content. And also over the years your hands also start to compensate unknowingly towards getting the sound you want to get. So really any amp or gear that you use will still produce your own sound because the sound ultimately comes from your own hands. I did a recording with Mike Portnoy of Dream Theatre some years ago and he said, man your amps sound just the same as they did when we used to play together before, but I was only playing through a screwed together wooden box with a fifteen inch speaker inside, not really a proper bass cab at all. So it just goes to show that it comes from within the player themselves.

BISCUIT: Was the bass your first instrument of choice, or did you try out some others first. And what made you ultimately stick to the low end?

BILLY: The first instrument I tried was a set of drums. A friend of mine had them and I learned how to play a beat… kick, hat, snare, and ride, yeah, I could actually do it. My sister had a folk guitar too, so I would sneak into her room to play that as well. But the guy that I really wanted to emulate was my neighbour Joe who was a bass player and a really great guy, and was my very first bass inspiration really.

BISCUIT: What was the first bass guitar that you owned, and do you still have it? And if not, do you know what happened to that bass?

BILLY: It was a Hagstrom, a double pick up with four little switches and one knob with a plastic top, in a kind of violet/light purple colour. My friend Steve found me a similar one on EBay and so I bought it just to play around. It’s funny when I hold it now because it’s like a toy, a little baby thing. I don’t really know what happened to that original Hagstrom that I had though. Maybe I just lost it along the way or something, I don’t really recall, but it’s a great little bass… real cute.

BISCUIT: What about your first band…can you remember those guys and the music you played?

BILLY: One of the first bands that I got into was a horn band…. yeah, we had a four piece horn section playing stuff like “Chicago” and “Blood Sweat and Tears”, and that was pretty challenging. We also played a few songs with some odd time signature’s too, which was tough, but it all goes towards making you a more rounded player overall.

BISCUIT: Did you teach yourself, learning by ear, or did you have lessons at any point in your early days?

BILLY: I pretty much learned everything by ear alone. I would just get a bunch of different records and work them out. I knew that the notes were on the neck of the bass somewhere, so I just had to find them and figure it all out and how to get from one note to the next…. and to this day I’m still learning all the time.

BISCUIT: It certainly does work out in the end, with a lot of patience, which I have found out for myself over the years. But I am also fascinated by those guys who can sight read anything. What are your thoughts in that area?

BILLY: Well I can tell you that there are two guys that I know who are absolute geniuses when it comes to reading music. The first is Tony MacAlpine, who is a lead guitarist foremost, and the other is Jeff Berlin, a genius on the bass. If you put anything in front of those guys, they can play it…. amazing stuff! And also Jeff’s ear is fantastic too, to the point that if you play him something, he can play it right back at you straight away. And as for Tony, you can hit a glass with a spoon and he will tell you the note, and he will be right… absolutely amazing.

BISCUIT: I bet you have come across quite a few musicians with these great skills during your career over the years, as you have played with so many top musicians from all over the world.

BILLY: Yeah, I have been real lucky. I remember another time when we were working with a drummer named Vinnie Calaiuta. There was myself, Yngwie Malmsteen on lead guitar, and Doug Pinnick on vocals for Van Halen’s “Light up the sky”, and Vinnie had never heard the track before. We played the song once and he went into the other room and cut it there and then…so cool. A similar thing happened with another drummer called Dennis Chambers of Santana, amongst many others. We had this track that just wasn’t working right and in the early hours of the morning we asked Dennis if he would give it a listen and maybe get the drum part nailed for us. Dennis actually got it done in around twenty minutes, and that turned out to be the opening track for the record with Niacin.

BISCUIT: Is there anyone around at the moment on bass who you would consider a force for the future, someone that really stands out for you?

BILLY: I don’t have a whole lot of time to listen to new players, unfortunately, and I am quite sad to admit that. But hopefully there will come a time when I will sit down and do some exploring. Having said that… the young lady playing with Jeff Beck is a wonderful player, and I believe her name is Tal Wilkenfeld, and also another female bass player by the name of Esperanza Spalding who is spectacular. She is a stand up player who sings and plays like a maniac.

BISCUIT: You have definitely got your ear to the ground Billy, they are both fabulous bass players indeed my friend. I am sure they will be pleased to hear your kind words about their efforts in the bass/music world. I would like to ask you just a few more questions if I may, this time on the more private side of your life. For example, when you get any free time, and I realise that it can’t be a lot due to your hectic lifestyle, what kind of things do you like to do to relax, when you don’t have the bass in your hands?

BILLY: As you say, I don’t really get a whole lot of time for stuff outside music, although recently I managed to get around four hundred cassette tapes of mine onto digital and then disc. I found so much material that I forgot I had…it was great hearing that stuff again and I had a blast doing it and was happy I managed to save so much.

BISCUIT: Do you get to watch films, or read books at all?

BILLY: Yeah, I rent things here and there. I recently read this book entitled, “The World Without Us” by Alan Weisman, which is a story about what the world would be like if mankind suddenly left the earth. There was another book called “Camorra”, the new one about an Italian crime family…interesting stuff. I am also a big Bill Bryson fan too, he is just great and I love him because he just makes me laugh out loud. I nearly got thrown out of a London restaurant once because I couldn’t stop laughing…fantastic stuff. I am also an avid reader of philosophy and language too, and also English as a hobby.

BISCUIT: Do you drive when you are home or spend all your time on busses and planes?

BILLY: Not really. Where I live here in L.A., I am lucky enough to have a place where I can walk to almost everything. So I can go for a week without starting my car, which is great, and I love it because I travel so much. Door to door, from my home to any destination in Europe or Asia is around a 24 hour non stop trip, including the airports and the waiting around etc, and that really takes it’s toll, so I walk as much as I can…. everywhere!

BISCUIT: It’s a wonder that you can actually play when you arrive at your destination bro… Arduous stuff indeed. If you had not become a musician, what career path do you think you would have followed?

BILLY: I was quite a scientist when I was a kid and I was thinking of becoming a microbiologist or a palaeontologist because they are big interests of mine, or perhaps a politician as I am a bit of a political buff. Other than that, my ideal job would be to own a bikini shop on Malibu beach…now that would be a good one!

BISCUIT: My final question for you is this……. If you had to spend a week or two on a desert island, which I’m sure you would enjoy tremendously, what would you take with you, and why?

BILLY: I would probably take a six string acoustic guitar, only because singing and playing on a guitar while hanging out and partying is best done on an acoustic guitar rather than an electric, because if you are hanging out with a bunch of people and having a glass of wine it’s more relaxed and easy that way. With the acoustic I can go through Crosby, Stills and Nash, together with the Beatles and the Stones and Kinks and all that great stuff, and that’s a lot of fun. If I could take a bass with me as well, that would be ideal of course. I would also take a book, something like “War and Peace”, or basically something that would take a long time to read. And maybe to take nothing at all would be cool too, because my ideal place to live would be on a tropical island where it’s very peaceful, and I would definitely love the climate. Another place where I love the climate is in England where everything grows so well, and it is so lush and green. I love England, it’s one of my favourite destinations. And as an American, being in England where the Beatles and so much of the music that I love came from would be wonderful. Also, our language and so much of our culture came from Great Britain as well, so it will always be a special place for me… I love it very much.

BISCUIT: Well maybe the next time you are over here in the U.K. we can hook up and have a wine or a beer in an old English pub my friend.

BILLY: Right on, and get some fish and chips too, eh. Also I have to get some Guinness, and also a little Indian food wouldn’t hurt either.

BISCUIT: You are always welcome bro, you know that. It has been amazing, and a real pleasure talking to you, and I thank you on behalf of all the readers of Bass Musician Magazine, and would like to thank you for being a daily inspiration to myself and so many other bass players around the world. Take care my friend, and I hope to catch up with you again soon.

BILLY: I am glad to hear that bro, thank you very much, that’s very kind of you….thanks a million.

Visit online at www.billysheehan.com

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Interview With Bassist Edmond Gilmore

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Interview With Bassist Edmond Gilmore

Interview With Bassist Edmond Gilmore…

I am always impressed by the few members of our bass family who are equally proficient on upright as well as electric bass… Edmond Gilmore is one of those special individuals.

While he compartmentalizes his upright playing for mostly classical music and his electric for all the rest, Edmond has a diverse musical background and life experiences that have given him a unique perspective.

Join me as we hear about Edmond’s musical journey, how he gets his sound and his plans for the future.

Photo, Sandrice Lee

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Billy The Kid: Tapping Into Sheehan’s Eternal Youth!

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Bassist Billy Sheehan

By David C. Gross & Tom Semioli 

BS: Billy Sheehan
DCG: David C. Gross
TS: Tom Semioli 

“When you find one door, open it up! It leads to another world…” 

William Roland Sheehan needs no introduction to bassists, nor hard rock aficionados – however such perfunctory salutations are required for the uninitiated. 

A virtuoso (tap, shred, effects maestro – you name it) who plies his craft in genres loosely termed as metal, prog-rock, and heavy-prog, Sheehan is actually a musical polymath. Though he’s most commonly associated with the numerous high-profile voltage enhanced ensembles he’s been an integral part of – namely Sons of Apollo, Talas, Winery Dogs, David Lee Roth, Mr. Big, Greg Howe, Niacin, and Tony MacAlpine to cite a very few – Billy digs everything from classical to jazz to synth-pop to electronic to flamenco to Tuvan throat singing – and then some. All of which is reflected in his work on stage and in the studio – which incidentally, has been going strong for six decades and counting.

With age comes wisdom. We caught Billy in the midst of Mr. Big’s farewell sojourn with his signature Yamaha Attitude bass in his lap. Note that while we were setting up the Zoom connection – Billy was working scales and warming up despite the reality that there was no show scheduled that evening! Sheehan explains why said collective is taking its final bow. Not to worry, the Buffalo-born bassist has much more work to do. In fact, you could say that Billy’s just getting started. 

TS: Someone once sang “I hope I die before I get old…” Yet when we take a look around us at a few of your peers and heroes such as Tony Levin and Ron Carter just to name two– they’re going stronger than ever. Reflect on the young Billy Sheehan and the 21st Century Billy Sheehan. What’s changed? What is the same? 

BS: As you grow you become more focused. I don’t want to say that I’m more mature, because that has other implications! 

As a musician – and I think this is true with all artists – we maintain our 16-year-old sensibilities for life! It’s healthy to maintain a youthful exuberance.  I’m thankful that I still have it. Somehow that was built into me. 

I’m still excited about getting up in the morning and working on my bass playing every day. I’ll be driving in my car and a musical idea will suddenly hit me and I have to get home to pick up my instrument.

Perhaps it’s because we can devote more time to things at this point in our lives. Hopefully, we’re not running around trying to get our lives together and we have more stability. That can lead to a new personal Renaissance for the over 50s players. It’s a great time to be alive at my age. 

DCG: Do you think the snow in Buffalo helped you develop into a virtuoso player?

BS: Absolutely! (laughter) I remember the Blizzard of ’77! I couldn’t leave my house. The snow was up to my chest. I think we went something like 60 to 90 days with the temperature not getting above freezing. I had my little apartment, my little bass, my little heater – so what else could I do? 

I learned the Brandenburg Concertos on bass…well, not all of it, just chunks here and there. However, the adversity you get from your environment can be an advantage, like it was for me – I was isolated. I was on my own with no interruptions. Back then I was free – no kids, no girlfriend. I froze but I think it paid off! 

DCG: There is one bass tip you gave me – not personally, it was in an interview – regarding strap length. The advice was to simply grab a piece of leather, sit down the way you practice, put the leather on you, stand up, and that is the optimum position for your bass!  

BS: Of all the fancy stuff I’ve tried to show people I’ve received more response from the strap length than anything else. 

But it’s really important. I’m sitting here with my bass practicing. When I stand up to play live, I need it to be in the same place. You need to maintain the angles of your hands, fingers, and arms. If you get up to play and the bass is lower nothing seems to work. 

DCG: That’s because you’re not using the muscles you’ve developed during practice. However you do want to look cool on stage, and the low-slung bass is the ultimate rock star aesthetic.

BS: Right, which is why we should invent a strap with a button on it to instantly lower and raise the bass! (laughter)

Note: Billy proceeds to model different bass lengths – chest level for progressive rock, and under his chin for what Sheehan terms as ‘the jazz bowtie.” 

TS: You came to prominence in a decade known as the 1980s which to my ears was a golden era for bassists. Our instrument was able to adapt to the new technologies. The improvements in recording and pro audio allowed bass notes to be heard rather than a low rumble lost somewhere in the mix. 

BS: It was a great decade. There is a constant evolution going on. It goes from artist to artist. One artist hears somebody – let’s say Oscar Peterson hears Art Tatum – and suddenly we have this amazing confluence of both styles together. I learned from many of the players that came before me – it’s a long list – everybody imaginable – and some not. Consequently, I stood on their shoulders. 

Today there are people who are standing on my shoulders! There is a whole generation of players who are doing what we thought was impossible – or couldn’t even imagine. And that’s a great thing. We see that happen in all the arts.

In music, more than anything, we notice a significant ascension in skills. Some other art forms go off into abstractions whereas in music, there is a real technical, definable and quantifiable ability to play a string of notes in time, in tune, and righteously. That has gone way, way up to me. 

I have a huge collection of music. I often focus on one particular brand of music – for example: garage rock from the 1960s.  There is rarely a bass in tune! Not even close – sometimes a half step off! Why nobody noticed it, I’ll never know! 

As we progressed, it got much better – more in tune, in time. 

My first concert was Jimi Hendrix. I went to see him play and I got up close and took a few photos. That was as close as I ever got to him. Now on YouTube – you can see his fingerprints as he’s playing. You can see the iris in his eyes. You can watch and learn everything. I think that is a great advantage to a new generation of players. 

They are fortunate in ways that we never were in that there are amazing documents of the musicians that came before them. So now the shoulders are even wider to stand on! Before that the best we could do, as you guys know, is listen to a record and go ‘I think it’s this (Billy renders imaginary riff)! I’m not sure…’ We find out later that we were either right on the money or somewhere in between. 

TS: However, ‘getting it wrong’ sometimes develops your individual style. Even if I couldn’t get John Entwistle’s line perfectly, I came up with something else that is unique to me. 

BS: Very true! You had to improvise and try to figure out how they did it. As a result, we have the ability to play stylistically. And the mechanics can be wildly across the spectrum of innovation. 

I traveled to Japan years ago to participate in a huge bass clinic. There were 3000 people in the auditorium and about 10 players on stage. One bassist played this complicated piece that I had recorded. And he did it exactly, but his technique was nowhere near the way I played it. It was amazing and it taught me a lot. He took a left turn and still landed in the right place. Awesome! 

As you both know, there are a million factors that go into this.  There are many paths to express yourself, and to be the way you want to be. 

TS: Growing up in the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s – we heard pop music on the radio with such extraordinary players as James Jamerson, Chuck Rainey, Louis Johnson, to name a few. Aside from metal, alternative, country, and funk – there hasn’t been a bass on hit tunes – even with such contemporary R&B artists such as Rhianna, Cardi B, and Beyonce – how do we get our instrument back into the mainstream? 

BS: I think it is cyclical. That sub-sonic, sub-harmonic pre-programmed thing – you know where they pump the bass line, or make a midi-file of it – is very popular now. And sonically – it is bassier! It’s more precise, and right on. 

That is the style that people’s ears are used to right now. They are also acclimated to auto-tune vocals. When they hear a natural vocal, which 99% of the time is not in perfect pitch, it throws them! Nowadays every note lands perfectly on that ProTools grid. The vocals are tuned to perfection, there is not a slightly flat or slightly sharp note to be found. 

I think the pendulum will swing back at some point. People are going to want to hear more humanity. They gravitate to something slightly out of time or out of tune which gives the music authenticity. Like taking a breath – we all do not inhale and exhale at the same rate. Our hearts do not beat at the same rate! I believe that there is an analogy there for music as well.

At present, we are in the perfection stage. There is beauty to that too. I don’t put it down. There’s not much about music that I do not like. Millions of love this type of music, and I acknowledge it. Who am I to say? There are a lot of cool things to think about. Especially in electronic music that was coming out in the 80s and 90s – artists such as Prodigy, Fat Boy Slim.

DCG: Yes, it was very experimental. 

BS: I loved that right away. There was a Stacey Q song ‘Love of Hearts’ with the coolest synth bass part. I remember sitting down and my challenge to myself was to work that out on a bass guitar. I tried to play it as rock solid as the programmed track. Sometimes it’s good to go with ‘man vs. machine!’ and try to match up to that studio perfection. And that goes for any musician, not just a bass player. You have to push yourself in different directions. When you find one door, open it up! It leads to another world… 

DCG: The older we get the more we appreciate things, and even in new music -which may not speak to us per se – there is something to be learned. For example, Justin Timberlake commented that he commences the songwriting process with beats as opposed to traditional chord changes and melodies – which is how our generation hears music. 

BS: This is true. And when I was young, I remember the older generation saying ‘What is this Jimi Hendrix stuff you’re listening to, it’s not music!’ 

And now I see a lot of young folks at our shows – especially Winery Dogs and Sons of Apollo – so there is somewhat of a generational hand-off going on today. 

My mom was big into the standard singers of her era; Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Mel Torme, Ella Fitzgerald, Bobby Darin, and similar artists. I am big into Sinatra!

DCG: What is your favorite Sinatra record?

BS: That would be Live at The Sands! Of course!

DCG: Mine is Frank Sinatra Sings for Only The Lonely. 

BS: That’s a good one! Live at The Sands is a compilation of five shows. It is a collection of the best parts of five nights…

DCG: Quincy Jones did the arrangements! 

BS: Right! I found recordings of all the other shows! That’s the nature of my collection. I always search out the impossible. I also have the rehearsals for Jimi’s Band of Gypsys before they ever performed. It’s amazing to hear different versions of those songs. 

Getting back to your comment on the components of music from this generation to the previous ones– I think it’s harder to go from the standard verse-chorus-bridge to a flat beat and vocalizations without any real pitch. That is a big jump. 

Yesterday I was discussing the chord changes in Beatles songs with a colleague of mine. For me, the greatest song ever written is The Beatles ‘If I Fell.’ How elaborate they were. I remember learning Everly Brothers songs on guitar and then the Beatles came out and it changed everything. I recall thinking ‘How does this even work?’ That was a jump back then, now what is happening is an even bigger jump because there were still harmonic relations between new and older music. 

But that does not mean that the new way of doing things for some artists cannot be crossed over.  Again, I appreciated a lot of new stuff. The computer-generated stuff, I’m not crazy about it because many of my friends are musicians and I like to hear them playing instead of programming. Yet there is a real beauty to electronic music. 

I was way into Wendy Carlos (composer/recording artist who was a 1960s electronic music pioneer and worked with Robert Moog, inventor of the Moog Synthesizer) back in the day. There was a great record by Mark Hankinson entitled The Unusual Classical Synthesizer (1972). I love the work of Japanese synthesist (Isao) Tomita – he wasn’t doing rhythmic Bach and Beethoven – he was doing Debussy on synthesizer which was mind-blowing to me. His record of Debussy Snowflakes Are Dancing (1974) – is full of lilting, emotional pads and colors. Just incredible. 

I’m also a big fan of world music – though that is a title that is too often misused. Bulgarian choir music intrigues me.

DCG: How about the Tuvan throat singers…

BS: Oh yeah, that is not human! Unbelievable. And they’re all in a room singing… I am also a huge fan of Indian music especially violinist L. Shankar whom Frank Zappa referred to as the best musician he ever knew. 

And it’s all available now…

TS:  You bring up the topic of streaming music – and a question to all the artists David and I speak with. Given the nature of the platform, which is song-oriented, is the album format still relevant today? 

BS: To some of us, the format is still relevant. When I’m on tour we sell lots of vinyl. The 1985 Talas record came out on vinyl and we have a hard time keeping up with it. The pressing plants are backed up from six months to a year in some instances. 

I saw one columnist comment that he didn’t know if people were actually playing the records as much as they enjoyed holding them in their hands! 

Who knows, there may be a time when the grid goes down and everyone is going to have to get their bicycle out, or their generator and get a turntable going again! 

DCG: Tom, how do you make a musician complain? 

TS: Give him a gig!

(laughter) 

BS: That’s true! The internet has brought on the age of complaining…

TS: Musicians complained that the record labels were unfair gatekeepers. When MTV came along – a platform that gave massive exposure to scores of artists – yourself included; musicians once again complained that it favored only the visuals as opposed to the music. Now with digital technology, musicians can go directly to the consumer. 

BS: For lack of a better word, things are more ‘democratic’ now. You can accelerate your promotion. For example, I am on a laptop now and I can record an entire symphony orchestra and do the movie soundtrack along with it. Then I can go online and sell it. That has leveled the playing field quite a bit. Before, you could only do that if you had a big budget – you’d have to hire a studio, engineers – it was cost-prohibitive in many instances. You can even do it on an iPhone! 

So, to me, that’s a good thing. 

I’ve heard of this parallel with this, perhaps you will concur with me; when desktop publishing first came out the reaction was ‘Oh no, there will be so many amazing books we won’t know what to do anymore!’ However, the same number of books still made it to the top of the list – despite the fact that there are hundreds of thousands of people writing via desktop publishing. 

And I think the same situation exists with music. Despite the population of the world making music, there is still going to be stuff that gravitates to the top. So, I don’t think it is so wildly different from when there were gatekeepers as you say. 

So that’s a good thing. You can be one click away from a billion listeners. That is amazing. The bad thing is, so are a million other people! 

DCG: As I said to Tom yesterday, in 100 years, I don’t think people will be reading. 

BS: I agree, and that it sad to see. Because similar to music, you can use your imagination. There is a fantastic book entitled This Is Your Brain on Music (written by neuroscientist Daniel Joseph Levitin, first published in 2006) – and I had a conversation by email with the author. 

The creativity that you must have in your mind when you’re reading a book – if a passage reads ‘snow is falling, smoke is coming from the chimneys…’ you can see it and smell it in your mind. You create a cinematic scenario. Whereas in a movie, it’s all spoon-fed to you. 

TS: The latest kerfuffle in the music business in 2024 is the use of artificial intelligence. What say you of AI?

BS: I am a purist in a lot of ways. When people ask me for advice about getting into the music business I tell them three things: 

1. Get in a band. 

2. Get in a band with songs… 

3. Get in a band with songs that you sing!

Run the numbers of every bass player, every guitar player and so forth and those three steps are the most successful. AI does not necessarily fit in with that. I have yet to wrap my head around AI to have a solid opinion about it.  In general, I am leaning towards humans, humanity, and people thinking up things. 

People thought up AI, it didn’t think up itself. And it’s all on a computer which is made by humans! I see the urge to create a robot world where everything is done by robots. But unless somebody programs it…it ain’t gonna happen. So there is that human element that is still essential.

Until we get robots that can program, then they’ll be some self-replicating, and then we’ll wind up with Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator of some sort!  That could happen. Science fiction has predicted many things that came to be! 

I prefer the Everly Brothers to AI. If and when the whole world goes to hell, we can still sit around a campfire with a guitar and sing songs. 

TS: Let’s talk bass for a change. David and I have a credo that states ‘it’s not a real bass until you drill holes in it.’ David now favors custom instruments, though he still loves to tear up a perfectly good bass and rebuild it in his own image every now and then. I prefer to modify my Fender basses. What was your original inspiration to create the legendary ‘wife’ and other basses? 

BS: For me, the Fender Precision bass is the bass. Ninety-nine percent of everything has been done on that instrument or some variation thereof. 

This (Billy holds aloft his Yamaha Attitude bass) is very P bass-ish. When Yamaha contacted me to make a bass and endorse their instrument – Fender was at a low point. They were changing ownership, there were shifts going on in the company, and their instruments weren’t that great. I’m going to say that was the mid-1980s.

Yamaha came along with quality control second to none in my opinion. I am glad went with them and I will always be with them. 

The P bass is undeniable. Before my first P bass came into the store – that was Art Kubera’s Music Store on Fillmore Avenue in Buffalo, New York – they let me take home an Epiphone Rivoli bass – or the Gibson version of that, which had the big, fat chrome pick-up right here beneath the base of the neck.  It had a super deep low-end resonance. 

I played for a few days, and when my bass came in I played it and it sounded great but it was missing that sound from the Rivoli. It was a super deep low sound like I’d heard on ‘Rain’ by The Beatles – which may have been Paul’s Rickenbacker or Hofner. 

Notes From An Artist Notes: Paul’s aforementioned instruments both featured pick-ups beneath the base of the neck and body! 

Paul Samwell-Smith of The Yardbirds, who used an Epiphone Rivoli – was a big inspiration to me and he had that deep sound.  

I loved the P bass but I wanted those sounds so I figured ‘Hey, I’ve got all this space right here, why don’t I dig a hole and put a pick-up in there!’ I didn’t know how to wire it, so I made two outputs and ran it into two channels of my amplifier. We’re talking 1970…1971. When dinosaurs roamed the earth!

Then I got a second amp – one was for all the harmonics and high-end content and then the super low deep end on the other. That really helped me in a three-piece band. We didn’t have a keyboard or rhythm guitar, so I had something that sounded guitar-ish and keyboard-ish but there was always bass underneath it. I never lost that low end. And that is basically the formula I stuck with. 

Then I found out later on – of course, I did not invent it, I came up with it on my own – all the others did too, that all the early Alembic basses had duel outputs for each pickup. Rickenbacker’s Rick-O-Sound had both pickups going to two places. 

I’d read that John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin took his Fender Jazz bass and split the pick-ups into two amps. John Entwistle did stuff like that as well. Chuck Burghofer,  who played the iconic bass part to the Barney Miller show theme song had a Gibson EB-0 pick-up on his Precision bass! A lot of players used that for the same solution to the same problem. 

If you really want to extend the low end – that neck pick-up is really where it is at. And that’s how I got to where I am on my Attitude bass. The Attitude neck is modeled after a 1968 Fender Telecaster bass – it’s a big fat baseball bat! It’s meaty with a lot of sustain. And that’s my story sad but true! (laughter)

TS: The great Mel Schacher of Grand Funk Railroad modded out his Fender Jazz with an EB-1 pickup at the neck – that’s how he attained his signature tone. 

BS: One of my favorite players!

TS: Since our show commenced three years ago as The Bass Guitar Channel David and I have debated the merits of the extended-range bass. You’ve always been a four-string guy. I last saw you with Sons of Apollo with a double neck bass – with both in four-string configurations. 

David and I spoke with Jerry Jemmott, the legendary bassist who, as you know, was a great influence on Jaco Pastorius. He maintains that Jaco would have continued with the four-string had he lived to see the advancements in extended-range five and six-string instruments. He also stresses that it was the limitations of the four-string that were a major factor in Jaco’s style – it prompted him to be more creative within those so-called restrictions.  Your thoughts?  

BS: I’ve already got enough death threats from five and six-string players! (laughter) 

I refer to the five-string bass as a ‘flinch.’ You have a guy sitting at home playing a four-string, it’s not really working out for him. He’s not playing in a good band… he’s not happening. So he thinks ‘I’ll go to five-strings!’ 

DCG: Oh Jesus!!!! C’mon Billy…

BS: Well, that’s really not a true blanket statement… (laughter)

Really, if you want to play five-string, God bless you, go for it! Go for however many strings you want.

When I posted my double-neck on social media, there was a ton of vitriol! Hostility! Attacks! I got feedback such as ‘You should play a five-string, that’s just wasteful!’ 

Hold on, I played a double-neck for a lot of different reasons. First of all, they are tuned differently. On the Mr. Big tour, we had to lower the keys on many songs. We’re not like we used to be vocally. Some of our songs are a whole step lower – so I’d have to switch basses, which would interrupt the flow of the performance. With the double-neck, I have every tuning I need right here. 

It seems like nobody could figure that out, especially the five-string. The double-neck is a fantastic instrument, it feels good, and it’s perfectly balanced for me. Standard tuning on the top neck, BEAD on the bottom. All my notes are where I want them to be. 

I agree with Jerry, I think Jaco would have stuck with the four-string. Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen played four strings. Monk Montgomery… There really is no limitation on a four-string. 

I can bend my Attitude on the G string to a high G. I can go really low with my de-tuner. I can bend the low D to a low B! So I have almost the same range as a lot of extended ranges basses right here.

I remember being in a band with Steve Vai and I had one low B note in one song, so I simply hit the de-tuner! Where there is a will there is a way! 

If you want to play a 90-string bass, I’m with you! The insistence that we all have to play the same bass with the same tone with the same everything – and if you don’t – you’re out of the club! I can’t hang with that. 

TS: You’ve collaborated with so many virtuoso guitarists – Steve Vai, Tony MacAlpine, Ritchie Kotzen, Paul Gilbert, and Michael Schenker to select a scant few. Who are the players, past or present, whom you would like to work with the most? 

PS: Sadly we lost that guitar player, and I don’t think I am qualified either: Paco de Lucia! He was tops on my list. Also I have to add John McLaughlin to the list. I am a huge Mahavishnu Orchestra fan. I am a big Billy Cobham fan too.

You mention guitar players, but I am more of a ‘drummer’ guy! I got to see Cobham in Dreams before the Mahavishnu Orchestra with the Brecker Brothers on horns for $1.50 at the University of Buffalo. He blew my mind! 

I love Dennis Chambers. Playing with him changed my life. 

DCG: Tell us how you approach working with guitar heroes.

BS: I like to work ‘with’ guitarists. I do what they need to have done. In the past when I played with Steve Vai, I removed myself from the equation. My approach was ‘What does Steve want? What does he need?’ In some ways, it takes the burden off me to be continuously creative. I strive to play accurately and righteously and make him happy. I don’t want him to even think of the bass while he is doing his thing. 

He is free and I am providing that big foundation – think of it as 18 inches of steel-reinforced concrete! With Paul Gilbert in Mr. Big, I always make sure there are big fat notes underneath him while he is soloing and I get the heck out of his way! I want to hear him too!

Bass is primarily a supportive instrument. Most anybody will agree to that I believe. The instrument does its own things too; sometimes its really woven into improvisation, sometimes it’s the foundation.

The problem I have with some guitarists is that if I move harmonically – they get thrown off because they cannot play over changes. Even if I am in the key of E minor, if I do some movement in the key other than the root, they are completely lost. I tell them not to worry, we are still in the same key! 

If you listen to Bach, what he does in the left-hand affects the sound of the right hand. The moving notes create intriguing counterpoint which are essential components of music and harmony. 

Depending on the guitarist, I’ll move around all over the place. Within reason of course! I give them the option to go where they want to go, and not to work because I’ll follow you! I will instinctively get out of the way when you need me to. Lock in with the drummer and I’ll jump in when it’s time. This way we create an interchange – an improvisation. Again, think Bach with the left hand and the right hand. You hit one note, you hit another, and something changes! That is harmony. It creates a third tone in a way.

When you can do that as a bass player it leads to more harmonic complexity in a good way. 

That’s not to say that Cliff Williams in AC/DC isn’t a genius. He’s pounding that beautiful open E string while Angus is doing his thing and it is glorious. Amazing. Same thing with Ian Hill of Judas Priest – he holds the whole band together. 

TS: And on the topic of drummers, Michael Portnoy and you have two remarkable bands that are completely different: the prog-rock collective of Sons of Apollo, and the blues-based Winery Dogs. 

BS: Winery Dogs is straight-up rock with a lot of improvisational stuff. Sons of Apollo is more of a progressive arranged style – the parts are the same – they are written into the song, much like classical music. As you can hear, there is not as much free form moving in Sons of Apollo. 

Sometimes I have this ESP thing going on with drummers. I remember one time I was setting up in a little club to do a jam and drummer Ray Luzier of Korn – we are dear friends and have a production company together – I had my back to him and I was plugging in my little amp. The lights were down and while we were playing Ray just hit his bass drum – boom!  at the exact moment when I hit my E string – boom! We spun around and looked at each other and said to each other ‘how did you know!’ (laughter)

When a drummer goes chicka-ta-ba-ba-do-bop, I play chicka-ta-ba-ba-do-bop! You can really incorporate motion in the bass into a useable, uncluttered thing if you are really locked in with the drummer. That’s something I tell young players all the time. 

Start on the bass drum – when the drummer hits the kick – the bass player hits a note. Same with the accents. Then later on if you want to do it you can play lower and higher octaves with the bass and snare drum – ala The Knack on their hit ‘My Sharona.’ There are so many hits constructed on that way of doing things: ‘Gimmie Some Lovin’ by Spencer Davis – there are many examples.

If you want to get adventurous you play along with the tom-tom fills! That’s my thing. I build my basslines more on drums than guitars. 

TS: Moving from Sons of Apollo to Winery Dogs is just another day at the office for you…

BS: Fortunately, I grew up in a time where my bands’ setlists were wild. Like everyone else, I started off in copy bands. My groups played everything from The Tubes –‘White Punks on Dope,’ to King Crimson’s ‘21st Century Schizoid Man,’ to Three Dog Night’s ‘Joy to the World,’ to Grand Funk Railroad…all this diverse stuff. A broad array of styles. 

When you’re playing in a bar band, you never know who is coming through the door. Some audiences like to hear complex music, other audiences want to sing along with ‘Jeremiah was a bullfrog… was a good friend of mine!’ 

It was good training for me to get in a situation where I could jump from genre to genre – somewhat convincingly I hope – and still manage to stay on my feet.

TS: Playing Top-40 was a boot camp experience for me as well. We had our disco set, slow dance set, dinner standards set… how is Mr. Big doing on your 2024 farewell tour.

BS: We’re doing great, we’re selling out venues, the feedback has been fantastic. We’re having a ball. And it’s a real farewell tour too – not a fake farewell tour! (laughter)

We want to cross over the finish line standing up rather than crawl over it with a walker and an oxygen mask with backup singers and running tracks! We are still actually singing and playing! I’ll be 71 next month (March 2024) – I am the oldest in the band. Not everyone ages the same, it can be difficult to get up there for a two-hour show. 

DCG: Doesn’t it strike you as funny when you go from being the youngest member of the band to being the oldest?  (laughter) 

BS: My timeline has shifted! I feel great. I still feel like I’m 16. I recall that after the pandemic when I first went out with the Winery Dogs, I felt like an MMA fighter! Get me in the octagon, let’s go! I was dying to play, and we hit it hard. Then I went back to Mr. Big, then back to Winery Dogs again… twice to Japan…two or three times to South America… all within the span of a year. 

I’m still ready to go, it’s all good!   

Note: Our complete conversation with Billy Sheehan will be available in an upcoming book: Good Question! Notes From An Artist Interviews… by David C. Gross & Tom Semioli www.NotesFromAnArtist.com 

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Bass Videos

Interview With K3 Sisters Band

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Interview With K3 Sisters Band

K3 Sisters Band Interview…

It is very rare when I talk to a band where all the members play bass. The K3 Sisters Band is a perfect example of a group where Kaylen, Kelsey and Kristen Kassab are all multi-instrumentalists and take turns playing bass.

Hailing from Texas, these three sisters have been playing music since they were very young and have amassed an amazing amount of original music,  music videos, streaming concerts, podcasts, and content that has taken numerous social media platforms by storm. On TikTok alone, they have over 2.5 million followers and more than a billion views.

Join me as we hear the story of their musical journey, how they get their sound, and the fundamental principles behind these prolific musicians.

Here is the K3 Sisters Band!

Photo, Bruce Ray Productions

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Bass Videos

Interview With Bassist Danielle Nicole

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Interview With Bassist Danielle Nicole

Bassist Danielle Nicole…

Blues music has universal appeal. We all have our ups and downs and this particular musical genre often fits our reality. Just hearing that we are not alone makes us feel a bit better. 

Danielle Nicole writes and sings the Blues. She does an amazing job at delivering both exquisite smoky vocals but plays just the right bass line to drive the tune home. Danielle recently released “The Love You Bleed” last January and will be touring the album this upcoming year.

Join me as we learn about Danielle’s musical journey, how she gets her sound, her plans for the future and more.

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Photo, Missy Faulkner

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Bergantino Welcomes Karina Rykman to Their Family of Artists

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Bergantino Welcomes Karina Rykman to Their Family of Artists

Interview with Karina Rykman…

Karina Rykman…The high-energy bassist discusses her path on bass, her upcoming tour, how she came to find Bergantino through another Bergantino artist, and more!

A lifelong Manhattanite diehard New Yorker, Bergantino welcomes new Artist Karina Rykman. Jim and Holly had the privilege of meeting Karina and her band in Boston to see her perform. She lights up a stage with her charismatic passion as a bass player and singer – a true powerhouse of joy and energy. On stage, she smiles from ear to ear, hopping, jumping, and dancing; the entire room overflowing with positivity! If you don’t know this titan of bass yet, you will soon enough. Karina’s JOYRIDE 2024 tour picks up this month with the debut of her new album. We had the opportunity to ask Karina some questions about her career so far. 

You have quite the career that began at a very young age. You have so much going on!! Can you share some of your musical path highlights you are most proud of?

Oh man, thank you! What a long, strange trip it’s been. I’m proud of still being so absolutely enthralled by music after playing in a million bands and finally ending up at this current juncture: being able to make my own music and tour under my own name. It just seems completely surreal – every gig, every recording…I’m on cloud 9 being able to continue to do this, and we’re just getting started. I’m extremely proud of being so young and being able to learn so much from Marco Benevento, without whom I’d be absolutely nowhere. Being put up to a large task with enormous shoes to fill, and stepping in even though I barely knew what I was doing at the time. Every gig with Marco is extremely special to me. 

Tell us about your new album release Joyride and your 2024 tour.

Joyride is my debut record! It came out in August 2023, and we’ve been touring behind it nonstop ever since. You only make your first record once, and I’m so proud of this one – it’s fun, searing, lush, with chantable choruses and, of course, incredibly thick bass and infectious grooves. It was produced by Phish’s Trey Anastasio, who also contributes guitar parts to 5 of the 9 tunes. 

What makes the bass so special to you particularly, and how did you gravitate towards it?

There’s nothing quite like feeling the subs rumbling under your feet in a venue and being responsible for those sounds is thrilling. I played guitar first, at age 12, but essentially completely switched over to bass when I was 22 and got the gig playing bass with Marco Benevento. I haven’t looked back since, except for a few gigs on guitar here and there (notably in the house band on Late Night with Seth Meyers and on The Today Show backing up Julia Michaels). 

People hate this question, but: If you were constructing your personal Bass Mt. Rushmore, who are the four players that would make the cut and why?

Geddy Lee, Cliff Burton, Bootsy Collins, Les Claypool. The list goes on and on, of course, but those four have imprinted their unique styles upon my brain since I was so young, and I’m perpetually learning from them – even in the case of the deceased Cliff (RIP), going back and watching Cliff ‘Em All videos is something I do all the time. Endlessly compelled by these four players and their original takes on the instrument.

How did you learn to play?

I never took lessons, but in middle school and high school, I just surrounded myself with equally music-obsessed people. All we did was play music and go and see live music, which is wildly accessible when you grow up in New York City. I had a really tight-knit crew of amazing players as my friends, and everyone would teach each other riffs and licks. I was fearless – playing with people much better than me and saying “yes” to every cool opportunity that came my way. I essentially learned from playing in a million bands and playing along to Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin records. 

Are there any other instruments you play?

I started on guitar, and still love to write on guitar. I can get around on keyboards a bit, but you’d never hire me as a keyboardist. The same goes for drums – I LOVE playing drums but you’d never hire me as a drummer. 

Describe your playing style(s), tone, strengths and/or areas that can be improved on the bass.

I play both with a pick and my fingers, depending on the specific needs of / vibe of the tune. I love playing fuzz bass and writing bombastic “lead bass” moments, which are a staple of my live show. I’d say I’m about the least “traditional” bassist in just about every way – which is both a strength and a weakness depending on how you frame it. I play what I hear, what I like, and I adhere to very few rules. I’ve always hated rules, and I didn’t start playing rock n roll to follow them. 

How did you find Bergantino Audio Systems?

I’m pals with Mike Gordon, bassist of Phish, and his tech is named Ed Grasmeyer. Ed suggested he bring Mike’s Bergantino for me to try out at a show I was playing in Vermont, and I fell instantly in love. 

You have been using the Bergantino Forté HP2 head. How have you been setting the controls on this and what changes to those settings might you make as you plug into your other individual instruments?

I love my Forté HP2! The versatility and headroom are incredible, and I’ve been having a lot of fun dialing it in at home. The real fun will begin this weekend when I take it out for 2.5 weeks of tour – dialing something in an apartment just isn’t the same as on a big stage with a PA and subs and all that good stuff. I like to roll my highs a bit and I keep “punch” on all the time. So far, it’s been a dream.

You are the inspiration behind Bergantino cab the new NXT410-C. Can you tell us more about this cab and your experience so far?

Firstly, I’m beyond touched to be the inspiration behind, well…anything! But this is truly insane, and such an honor. I love this cab. Not only is it light and extremely good-looking, it can handle all my loudest, most abrasive and obnoxious effects. My old amp didn’t come close, and could just fart out or I’d have to turn down to appease it. I’m a big fan of playing at earth-shattering volumes, so this is going to be a match made in heaven. 

We all love your custom-made Goldie Hawn bass guitar! Can you share more with us about this bass design and why it is so special to you?

Thanks! That’s made by “Zeke Guitars” – it’s the second custom bass he’s made for me! He reached out in the summer of 2019 and asked what my dream bass would be, and I said it was basically my 1978 Fender P-Bass, but lighter, whiter, with Lindy Fralins, gold hardware, and shorter scale. And, well..he did exactly that! I love that bass so much. And the gold, which is referred to as Goldie Hawn, was born in December of 2022, and has the same specs. I just love it, it sounds amazing and looks, arguably, even better. 

Jim and I were lucky to get to meet you in person when you came to Boston with the band. The members of the band are such a great group of people! Can you share more with all about the band and crew. 

I’m so lucky to keep such incredible company. My bandmates, Adam November and Chris Corsico, are not only unbelievable musicians but also incredible humans. We just laugh and laugh, and we’re there for each other when the road gets tough or we’re exhausted or whatever life throws at us. It’s the joy of my life to get to tour the world with these guys. And the crew! That night was Connor Milton on sound and Nick Koski on lights – we have a rotating cast of people who play those roles based on availability, and everyone who works for us are absolute consummate professionals and the sweetest humans. They are my team of experts and I just adore them so much. Shout out to Zach Rosenberg, Jeff Volckhausen, Dylan Hinds, Dom Chang, for being the best rotating crew a gal could ask for!  

What else do you do besides music? 

Not much! I love going to the beach! I love eating dinner! 

Because I am a foodie, I always ask people what their favorite food is!

Oysters, caviar, sushi. I’m a raw bar fanatic. 

At a very young age, Karina is a diligent hard worker. She juggles many balls managing her business and is savvy beyond her years. We are very happy to be working with Karina and are excited for her continued success!

Follow Karina Rykman:

Instagram: @karinarykman
X (formerly Twitter): @KarinaRykman
Facebook @karinarykman/

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