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MUSE: Bassist Chris Wolstenholme | Progressive Rock Update With Brad Houser

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Meet Brad Houser –

MUSE. The biggest band that many Americans have never heard of. England and Europe certainly know these gents quite well. Just check out their tour schedule… including nine stadium dates here in the US in the fall of 09.

MUSE is a riotous mix of many, many influences, thoroughly postmodern and completely up to date. U2 meets Radiohead. Living Colour hanging out with Beethoven. Bach meets Metallica with Yes mediating…………. etc.

For this column I went to Waterloo Records in Austin and bought MUSE’s “HAARP” live CD and DVD set. The video and audio is from two shows at Wembley Arena, London, June 16-17 2007.Packed. Sold out. The entire crowd knows all the lyrics to all the songs. This band is well-loved and then some.

MUSE, comprised of Chris Wolstenholme on bass, Dominic Howard on drums, and Matthew Bellamy on vox, guitar, and piano, formed in 1994 in Teignmouth, Devon, UK. They have four studio albums to date, with a fifth, “The Resistance” due Sept. 14, 09.

Interestingly, Celine Dion had to back down when she planned to name her Las Vegas show “Muse”, because the band owns worldwide performing rights to the name. She offered $50,000 for the rights, but the band refused, with singer Bellamy stating that “we don’t want to turn up there with people thinking we were Celine Dion’s backing band.”

MUSE could certainly play well in Vegas. Their stage setup is epic in proportion, and totally sci-fi. There are four large satellite dishes flanking the stage, with other square antenna arrays spread across the actual stage. This undoubtedly references “HAARP”, the antenna array in Alaska, sponsored by the US Air Force, Navy, and the University of Alaska. HAARP, or “High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program”, has generated much controversy worldwide…….. Much! I leave it to the reader to do further research. HAARP is like science fiction brought to life………… Further enhancing the MUSE stage set is a giant LED video screen across the entire back of the stage, and a small city’s worth of stage lighting. All this is used to great dramatic effect throughout the show.

On the video, the camera work is crystal clear, although the editing is a little too quick cut/ ADD for my tastes, but, whatever. The audio is well mixed and the band performance is spot-on. These men play extremely well together.

On bass, Chris Wolstenholme is solid and inventive. Frequently rocking on an array of jazz basses, with a Rickenbacker for good measure, Wolstenholme often uses distortion, effectively thickening the group sound. At other times he employs an SVT type steely grind, yet at other times using a very brown, warm tone. This man knows how to serve the song. His chameleonic sound and style serve as a solid backbone for MUSE, and he intelligently employs his substantial bass chops when necessary. Part Steve Harris, part Flea, part Chris Squire, with a little Muzz Skillings and Geezer Butler thrown in for good measure. I doubt that Wolstenholme is thinking of any of this while playing. His work on the intro to “Newborn” is an excellent Bach-type workout, sounding like the left hand of a two-part invention. Well done.

Soaring above Wolstenholme’s solidity is the star of the show, Matthew Bellamy. Sounding often like a Bono/ Thom Yorke hybrid, Bellamy delivers an impassioned performance with complete abandon. This gentleman loses himself in the music 100%.

As a guitarist, he has it all, with Tom Morello, Van Halen, and Jimi Hendrix coming to mind. He also is an accomplished classical pianist, using a grand piano outfitted with a clear lid to great effect. Bravo! Also of interest is his Korg KAOSS pad equipped guitar. Bellamy uses it for the occasional ray gun blast during solos……….I want one! Genius.

Drummer Dominic Howard keeps things simple and solid on his end. Show your Gospel Chops -obsessed drummer friend some footage of Mr. Howard for a quick lesson in minimalism and How To Serve The Song. Perfect.

The sci-fi theme/ mad mix of elements continues throughout the show. Track 2, “Knights of Cydonia” sounds like Iron Maiden playing the theme from Star Trek. It seems as if MUSE is at the lighter end of a continuum that has The Mars Volta at the darker end.

Both bands have that interesting combination of science fiction and……. outrage. Much of MUSE’s subject matter is non-specifically political…………”empowerment rock”, as I like to think of it. I am reminded of U2, also. MUSE has a similar feeling of triumph in their music and performance.

On YouTube there are a few excerpts of these over-the-top Wembley shows. Check these gents out, and witness the power of the Epic.

Thank you for supporting Bass Musician Magazine and this column… BH

Bass Videos

Interview With Bassist Ciara Moser

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Interview With Bassist Ciara Moser

Bassist Ciara Moser…

Ciara and I sat down for this interview a few months after the launch of her debut album, “Blind. So what?”

Blind since birth, she is a powerhouse of talent; she is not only a professional bassist, but also composes music, and is a producer and educator. I am just blown away by her talent and perseverance.

Join me as we hear about Ciara’s musical journey, the details of her album, how she gets her sound, and her plans for the future.

Visit online:

www.ciara-moser.com 
IG @ moserciara
FB @ ciara.moser

Photos by Manuela Haeussler

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Gear News

New Gear: Black Ice Boost and Distort, Battery-Free Modules for Bass and Guitar

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New Gear: Black Ice Boost and Distort, Battery-Free Modules for Bass and Guitar

Black Ice Boost and Distort, Battery-Free Modules for Bass and Guitar…

Black Ice Enterprises introduces Black Ice Boost and Black Ice Distort, small, battery-free devices that can be easily installed in a bass or guitar.

Black Ice Boost offers two selectable stages of up to 7 dB of boost, broadly concentrated in the midrange frequencies to add humbucker-like qualities to Strat®, Tele® and other types of single-coil pickups. Black Ice Distort is an overdrive module that can be configured to offer anything from slight overdrive to distortion. Both models are compatible with all passive guitar pickups and electronics (they’re not compatible with battery-powered active pickups).

Black Ice Boost (SRP: $119.95; MAP, $79.95) can be installed using several wiring options, including a simple “stealth” install that utilizes a single push-pull pot, and a dual-switch option that allows users to select between two different levels of boost. For those using the boost along with Black Ice Distort, a second push-pull pot or switch can be used to select a clean or distorted boost.

The Black Ice Boost module is approximately 2/3 the size of a 9-volt battery, and can be easily installed in most instruments with no routing or permanent modifications required. The tone of the instrument remains completely unaffected when the boost is bypassed.

In addition to use with popular single-coil pickups, Black Ice Boost can also be used with other pickup types. Use it to fatten up a P-90 style pickup, or add girth to a low-wind humbucker. Jazz Bass® players can use the additional midrange content provided by Black Ice Boost to produce a sound that’s reminiscent of a P-Bass® or soapbar-type pickup. Black Ice Boost is not recommended for use with high-output humbuckers and other dark-sounding pickups.

Black Ice Distort (SRP: $27.95; MAP, $21.95) is an overdrive module that can be configured for just a touch of grit, or a more aggressive grind, all the way to a 1960’s-flavored fuzz. While its battery-free circuit will never replace the more refined sound of a well-designed pedal, it provides handy, there-when-you-need-it access to a variety of fun old-school flavors, and is a great way to add additional textures to an already overdriven amp or pedal. Bass players will especially dig its raw dirty grind.

Like Black Ice Boost, the sugar-cube-sized Black Ice Distort provides a lifetime of tone with no maintenance or power source required. A variety of wiring options are included that let you activate the Distort via a switch or push-pull pot, or by easily converting your guitar’s tone control into a control for the Black Ice Distort circuit. It can be used in conjunction with the Black Ice Boost for a wide variety of useful tones.

Black Ice Boost and Black Ice Distort are now shipping.

Visit online at www.blackiceoverdrive.com

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This Week’s Top 10 Basses on Instagram

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TOP 10 Basses of the week

Check out our top 10 favorite basses on Instagram this week…

Click to follow Bass Musician on Instagram @bassmusicianmag

FEATURED @loritabassworks @meridian_guitars @alpherinstruments @phdbassguitars @mgbassguitars @mauriziouberbasses @utreraguitars @sugi_guitars @branco_luthier @blasiusguitars

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Gear News

New Gear:  D’Addario’s New Humidipak

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New Gear:  D’Addario’s New Humidipak

D’Addario’s New Humidipak Absorb Protects Instruments Against Excess Moisture…

Utilizing two-way humidity control technology, D’Addario’s new Humidipak Absorb protects against damage to wooden instruments in environments with too much humidity. 

Humidipak Absorb allows players to safely return an instrument and case to the ideal relative humidity level. Using Boveda’s patented two-way humidity control technology, Absorb automatically soaks up excess moisture at a safe rate, re-establishing the right humidity level and eliminating the guesswork of revitalizing your instrument. 

Like all the Humidipaks before, using Humidipak Absorb is easy—there’s no dripping sponges or manual adjustments. All players need to do is put the humidification packets in the included pouches and place them in the instrument case, close the lid, and relax. The instrument and case will remain at the optimal 45-50% relative humidity level for 2-6 months. 

D’Addario’s other Humidipaks, Restore and Maintain, are still available for those who need to increase and sustain the humidity around their instrument. 

To learn more about Humidipak Absorb, visit ddar.io/absorb-pr 

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Bass Videos

Interview With Bassist Travis Book

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Interview With Bassist Travis Book

Interview With Bassist Travis Book…

Bluegrass music has had a very solid following over many years and I am always happy to hear from one of the pioneers in that genre.

Travis Book plays bass for the Grammy award-winning band “The Infamous Stringdusters” and has recently released his first solo album “Love and Other Strange Emotions”. As if he wasn’t busy enough, Travis also hosts a podcast, Plays a Jerry Garcia music show with Guitarist Andy Falco, and is constantly gigging locally in his neck of the woods.

Photo, Seyl Park

Visit Online:

www.thetravisbook.com
www.thestringdusters.com
FB @ TheTravisBook
IG @ travisbook

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