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Tony Grey by Brent-Anthony Johnson : Keep an Eye On

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Meet Brent-Anthony Johnson –

Since arriving on Planet Earth 33 years ago, Tony Grey has busied himself with the study of music composition and performance in a way that can only be described as obsessive! His discography ranges from John McLaughlin, Hiromi, David Fiuczynski, Industrial Zen, and Oli Rockberger to the pop group Bliss. Tony displays incredible musicianship on everything I’ve ever heard him playing on, and he places his wonderful voice (and impossibly good tone) on the electric bass guitar in the exact center of the listener’s environment! In short, Tony Grey is one of the most incredible bassists on the scene today! Ridiculous chops and compositional abilities aside… Tony is a wonderful person! I had the extreme pleasure of discussing bass, travel, and life with this World-Class musician recently. His story simply tells itself.

Take time to check out Tony at both www.tonygrey.com and www.myspace.com/tonygrey (and at YouTube.com) here is Tony Grey!

BAJ: Man… what wonderful music, Tony! Congratulations on “Chasing Shadows”! How did the record come together, and does it sound the way you had hoped – during the recording process? Also, can you go into more detail about your incredibly musical upbringing?

TG: Thanks a lot–glad you like it. For this CD I really wanted to explore the cross over between pop, Jazz, and world music. I’m a big fan of melodies and really want that to be the focus. My upbringing was very musical. My mother is a piano player, as is my grandmother, and my sister played piano and violin. My Uncle is John McLaughlin, and my step-dad is also a guitarist, so there’s a lot going on there. I grew up listening to a lot of pop music like Michael Jackson, Burt Bacharach, Sting, and others. But I also have this deep love for Drum and Bass, and the darker aspect of that music…and I love pads and dark chords! My goal really is to create music with a dark and interesting edge, but that’s also really acceptable to a wide audience. For Chasing Shadows, I think I achieved my goals.

BAJ: What was your primary objective for “Chasing Shadows” in comparison to your premier disc, “Moving”?

TG: I wanted the 2 CD’s to sound different… but it was important to keep my voice. For the1st CD, Moving, I wanted to make a recording of all my musical influences! I love many styles of music, from Indian Classical to Pop, Jazz, Funk, R&B, Drum and Bass…you name it! On the 2nd , I just wanted to focus more on one theme.

BAJ: Okay… So, you’re encouraged by your uncle (guitarist) John McLaughlin to attend Berklee; earned a scholarship, and graduated in ’01! Cool! When did you begin working with the right hand technique you now employ? Even though there are many videos of you playing (YouTube, and at MySpace)… how would you describe your technique to our readers?

TG: Well I developed my own technique without any thought. I thought it was just “normal”… until I started getting lot’s of questions about it! I always had a big issue of having open strings making a noise. When I listened back my notes had no real definition. I just started to practice really slowly so I could articulate the sound exactly the way I wanted to hear it.

BAJ: What are your favorite memories from your time at Berklee, and how would you encourage our readers to further their own musical knowledge?

TG: I had a great time at Berklee! It was very challenging for me in the beginning as I was very much a beginning bass player!! I found the most valuable thing at Berklee were the students from all over the world. Everybody was there to play and study music seriously, and there were really some of the greatest young musicians in the world at the time I was attending. It was very inspiring!

BAJ: Do you find time to teach? Also, what are a few things you’re building via your personal practice regiment?

TG: I do teach from time-to-time, and I do like it a lot! I am very serious about practice and I document everything I work on. I basically break things down into the most important subjects to study and create 30-minute workouts to develop my playing. I used to practice up to 12-hours per day… but over time I found myself going through the motions of practicing without really focusing on anything specific. I found if I practiced less, but really concentrated, I could really see my growth as a player. Some of the important things I work on are technique, fingerboard exercises, improvising and transcribing, and particularly ear training.

BAJ: Where do your compositions begin, and what is your process from thought to document?

TG: There are a few different ways I work. One way is to find chord voicings I like and make vamps. Then, I add melodies and build from there. Another way is to build a bass line and drum groove and work from that. Sometimes, I just write a melody and build harmony around that.

BAJ: What is your personally favorite composition to date?

TG: HMMM…. I’m not sure I was happy with “Awaken” and “White Woods” (from Moving), or “No Mans Land” and “Guiding Light” (from Chasing Shadows). It’s tough because I’m very self critical… (Laughter) People write to me saying those are their favorite tunes. I find that kind of thing very encouraging… It keeps me going!

BAJ: What are 3 points you hope to accomplish each time you take a solo?

TG:
* To keep my ideas focused so I can make a story.
* To just play without fear and without thought.
* To make something memorable.

When I love a solo, I listen to it over and over again until I have it memorized, and I find myself singing along to it! I think that’s a great achievement for any improviser!

BAJ: You have incredibly well rounded tastes, musically speaking. Would you take a moment to encourage our readers to seek a more Global oriented musical environment?

TG: I think it’s important to have a wide range of musical tastes – as it helps you sound like yourself. I was a “jazz snob”, for a minute, when I wouldn’t give other music the time of day. I thought that attitude would make me a better musician. I found myself uninspired and uncreative in that period. I shouldn’t be ashamed of liking any type of music that moves me. Also, Gregg Phillinganes (keyboardist for Michael Jackson and everyone else) told me during a clinic to respect all styles of music and to remain open-minded! You never really know from where your chance will come in this business! Once you have your foot in the door you can start moving to where you really want to be in your career.

BAJ: Tell us about your move to Yamaha from your Fodera, and please take a moment to give us your views on artist endorsements? Thanks man!

TG: I love my endorsements and it’s really an honor to represent a company I really respect and admire! I use DR strings – which have always been my first choice; Aguilar Amps – which is the first amp I played through when I moved to the US. It’s such an amazing sound!

Yamaha is huge! The very first bass my mother bought me was a 4-string Yamaha which I was so proud to have at the time! I love Fodera, and they really make the most beautiful instruments. I still play the Fodera from time to time. Yamaha have been very supportive and they want to develop their sound to fit today’s modern bass players. I have been working closely with them trying to make a great instrument.


BAJ: If you spend any time ruminating on the future… what will the bassist of 2020 sound like, and what will be in that player’s “bag”?

TG: Everything (Laughter)

BAJ: What touches you most about your favorite musicians, and how do you articulate the sound in your head?

TG: Well, the thing I notice about my favorite musicians is that they really look so comfortable, and also the way that they move when they play – you can see and feel their sense of the pocket! Herbie Hancock is a good example… you can really see his groove when he plays! It’s so natural! Pat Metheny is also truly inside what he’s doing, and it’s a pure form of self-expression! These guy’s really do play what they are feeling with no compromise, and that’s my goal.

BAJ: How would you engineer you career, if you had the power to do so?

TG: All I want is to play! If that takes me around the world and makes money, then so be it!! If not… as long as I play how I dream of that’s OK! I’d also teach in a school a couple of day’s a week. I’m not sure when, or how, but I’d love to teach! I am writing an instructional book and DVD – which I’m currently finishing. So, hopefully people will dig that. I’m also in the process of writing new music for the next release. I’m going to really challenge myself with these projects, and create a “stir” that will promote my career.

BAJ: Thank you for taking a moment to join us here at Bass Musician Magazine, man! Any closing thoughts?

TG: Just keep working hard, and don’t put too much pressure on yourself musically! You are where you are (musically), and time and patience will take you to the next level. Just sit tight and enjoy the music you are making right now! Thanks so much for the encouragement and support, and it has been a pleasure to talk to you and answer these great questions! I hope to work more with you in the future, man!

Bass Videos

Tour Touch Base (Bass) with Ian Allison

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Tour Touch Base (Bass) with Ian Allison

Ian Allison Bassist extreme

Most recently Ian has spent the last seven years touring nationally as part of Eric Hutchinson and The Believers, sharing stages with acts like Kelly Clarkson, Pentatonix, Rachel Platten, Matt Nathanson, Phillip Phillips, and Cory Wong playing venues such as Radio City Music Hall, The Staples Center and The Xcel Center in St. Paul, MN.

I had a chance to meet up with him at the Sellersville Theater in Eastern Pennsylvania to catch up on everything bass. Visit online at ianmartinallison.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 @officialspector @bqwbassguitar @brute_bass_guitars @phdbassguitars @ramabass.ok @tribe_guitars @woodguerilla_instruments @mikelullcustomguitars @jcrluthier @elegeecustom

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Interview With Audic Empire Bassist James Tobias

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Interview With Audic Empire Bassist James Tobias

Checking in with Bergantino Artist James Tobias

James Tobias, Bassist for psychedelic, Reggae-Rock titans Audic Empire shares his history as a musician and how he came to find Bergantino…

Interview by Holly Bergantino

James Tobias, a multi-talented musician and jack-of-all-trades shares his story of coming up as a musician in Texas, his journey with his band Audic Empire, and his approach to life and music. With a busy tour schedule each year, we were fortunate to catch up with him while he was out and about touring the US. 

Where were you born and raised?

I was born in Dallas, Texas and lived in the Dallas area most of my life with the exception of 1 year in Colorado. I moved to the Austin area at age 18. 

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

I honestly started playing bass because we needed a bass player and I was the one with access to a bass amp and bass. I played rhythm guitar and sang up until I met Ronnie, who I would later start “Audic Empire” with. He also played rhythm guitar and sang and we didn’t know any bass players, so we had to figure something out. I still write most of my songs on guitar, but I’ve grown to love playing the bass. 

How did you learn to play, James?

I took guitar lessons growing up and spent a lot of time just learning tabs or playing by ear and kicked around as a frontman in a handful of bands playing at the local coffee shops or rec centers. Once I transitioned to bass, I really just tried to apply what I knew about guitar and stumbled through it till it sounded right. I’m still learning every time I pick it up, honestly. 

You are also a songwriter, recording engineer, and a fantastic singer, did you get formal training for this? 

Thank you, that means a lot!  I had a couple of voice lessons when I was in my early teens, but didn’t really like the instructor. I did however take a few lessons recently through ACC that I enjoyed and think really helped my technique (Shout out to Adam Roberts!) I was not a naturally gifted singer, which is a nice way of saying I was pretty awful, but I just kept at it. 

As far as recording and producing, I just watched a lot of YouTube videos and asked people who know more than me when I had a question. Whenever I feel like I’m not progressing, I just pull up tracks from a couple of years ago, cringe, and feel better about where I’m at but I’ve got a long way to go. Fortunately, we’ve got some amazing producers I can pass everything over to once I get the songs as close to finalized as I can. 

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

I honestly don’t know what my style would be considered. We’ve got so many styles that we play and fuse together that I just try to do what works song by song.  I don’t have too many tricks in the bag and just keep it simple and focus on what’s going to sound good in the overall mix. I think my strength lies in thinking about the song as a whole and what each instrument is doing, so I can compliment everything else that’s going on. What could be improved is absolutely everything, but that’s the great thing about music (and kind of anything really). 

Who were your influencers in terms of other musicians earlier on or now that have made a difference and inspired you?

My dad exposed me to a lot of music early. I was playing a toy guitar while watching a VHS of Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble live at SXSW on repeat at 4 years old saying I wanted to “do that” when I grew up. I was the only kid in daycare that had his own CDs that weren’t kid’s songs. I was listening to Led Zeppelin, Hendrix, and The Doors when I could barely talk. I would make up songs and sing them into my Panasonic slimline tape recorder and take it to my preschool to show my friends. As I got older went through a bunch of music phases. Metal, grunge, rock, punk, hip hop, reggae, ska, etc. Whatever I heard that I connected to I’d dive in and learn as much as I could about it. I was always in bands and I think I kept picking up different styles along the way and kept combining my different elements and I think that’s evident in Audic’s diverse sound. 

Tell me about Audic Empire and your new release Take Over! Can you share some of the highlights you and the band are most proud of?

Takeover was an interesting one. I basically built that song on keyboard and drum loops and wrote and tracked all my vocals in one long session in my bedroom studio kind of in a stream-of-consciousness type of approach. I kind of thought nothing would come of it and I’d toss it out, but we slowly went back and tracked over everything with instruments and made it our own sound. I got it as far as I could with production and handed it off to Chad Wrong to work his magic and really bring it to life. Once I got Snow Owl Media involved and we started brainstorming about a music video, it quickly turned into a considerably larger production than anything we’ve done before and it was such a cool experience. I’m really excited about the final product, especially considering I initially thought it was a throwaway track.

Describe the music style of Audic Empire for us. 

It’s all over the place… we advertise it as “blues, rock, reggae.” Blues because of our lead guitarist, Travis Brown’s playing style, rock because I think at the heart we’re a rock band, and reggae because we flavor everything with a little (or a lot) of reggae or ska. 

How did you find Bergantino Audio Systems?

Well, my Ampeg SVT7 caught fire at a show… We were playing Stubbs in Austin and everyone kept saying they smelled something burning, and I looked back in time to see my head, perched on top of its 8×10 cab, begin billowing smoke. We had a tour coming up, so I started researching and pricing everything to try and find a new amp. I was also fronting a metal band at the time, and my bass player’s dad was a big-time country bass player and said he had this really high-end bass amp just sitting in a closet he’d sell me. I was apprehensive since I really didn’t know much about it and “just a little 4×10” probably wasn’t going to cut it compared to my previous setup. He said I could come over and give it a test drive, but he said he knew I was going to buy it. He was right. I immediately fell in love. I couldn’t believe the power it put out compared to this heavy head and cumbersome cab I had been breaking my back hauling all over the country and up countless staircases.  

Tell us about your experience with the forte D amp and the AE 410 Speaker cabinet. 

It’s been a game-changer in every sense. It’s lightweight and compact. Amazing tone. And LOUD. It’s just a fantastic amp. Not to mention the customer service being top-notch! You’ll be hard-pressed to find another product that, if you have an issue, you can get in touch with the owner, himself. How cool is that? 

Tell us about some of your favorite basses.

I was always broke and usually working part-time delivering pizzas, so I just played what I could get my hands on. I went through a few pawn shop basses, swapped in new pickups, and fought with the action on them constantly. I played them through an Ampeg be115 combo amp. All the electronics in it had fried at some point, so I gutted it out and turned it into a cab that I powered with a rusted-up little head I bought off someone for a hundred bucks. My gear was often DIY’d and held together by electrical tape and usually had a few coats of spray paint to attempt to hide the wear and tear. I never really fell in love with any piece of gear I had till I had a supporter of our band give me an Ibanez Premium Series SDGR. I absolutely love that bass and still travel with it. I’ve since gotten another Ibanez Premium Series, but went with the 5-string BTB.  It’s a fantastic-sounding bass, my only complaint is it’s pretty heavy. 

Love your new video Take Over! Let us know what you’re currently working on (studio, tour, side projects, etc.)

Thank you!! We’ve got a LOT of stuff we’re working on right now actually. Having 2 writers in the band means we never have a shortage of material. It’s more about getting everything tracked and ready for release and all that goes into that. We just got through filming videos for 2 new unreleased tracks with Snow Owl Media, who did the videos for both Love Hate and Pain and Takeover. Both of these songs have surprise features which I’m really excited about since these will be the first singles since our last album we have other artists on. We’ve also got a lot of shows coming up and I’ve also just launched my solo project as well. The debut single, “Raisin’ Hell” is available now everywhere. You can go here to find all the links distrokid.com/hyperfollow/jamestobias/raisin-hell

What else do you do besides music?

For work, I own a handyman service here in Austin doing a lot of drywall, painting, etc. I have a lot of hobbies and side hustles as well. I make custom guitar straps and other leather work. I do a lot of artwork and have done most of our merch designs and a lot of our cover art. I’m really into (and borderline obsessed) with health, fitness, and sober living.  I have a hard time sitting still, but fortunately, there’s always a lot to do when you’re self-employed and running a band!

Follow James Tobias:

jamestobiasmusic.com
Facebook.com/james.tobias1
Instagram.com/ru4badfish2
TikTok.com/@jamestobiasmusic
audicempire.com 

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Bass CDs

New Album: Avery Sharpe, I Am My Neighbors Keeper

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A new recording will be released on JKNM Records by internationally renowned bassist/composer Avery Sharpe, “I Am My Neighbors Keeper”

Avery Sharpe and his Double Quartet to release, I Am My Neighbors Keeper

A new recording will be released on JKNM Records by internationally renowned bassist/composer Avery Sharpe, “I Am My Neighbors Keeper” is scheduled for release in June 2024.

Sharpe has composed a new work that highlights our commitment to one another. Avery initiated the project as a response to the political and racial division that has grown over the past seven years in the country. “The U.S political climate has drastically changed in the past 40-plus years, especially during the last seven of those years. In this age of greed, which Sharpe refers to as “IGM,” I Got Mine, basic human compassion has been eroded. Racial, economic and social strides are being turned back.

“We have food insecurity, the unhoused, pandemics, school shootings, domestic violence, and an opioid problem, just to name some. There is a need to remind people that each of us is here on this planet for a very short period of time. It doesn’t matter if one has a religious approach or a secular approach, it all comes down to concern and compassion for each other. Through these compositions and recordings, Avery’s mission as an artist is to remind us that we all are interconnected and that ‘We Are Our Neighbor’s Keeper.’ When we help to uplift one, we uplift everyone,” Sharpe said.

Each movement in the piece describes the values we should strive for to help one another for this multi-media (video slide show during performance) and multi-discipline performance.

Many of Sharpe’s projects and recordings have been about “standing on the shoulders of ancestors, heroes and sheroes.” Among his recordings and projects, include “Running Man” (celebrating the athlete Jesse Owens), “Ain’t I A Woman” (about Sojourner Truth), and his most recent project “400: An African American Musical Portrait” (marking the 400 years from 1619 to 2019).

Avery Sharpe has recorded and performed with many jazz greats from Dizzy Gillespie to Yusef Lateef. He had an illustrious run of 20 plus years with the legendary Jazz pianist McCoy Tyner, of which he recorded more than 25 records with Mr. Tyner and performed countless worldwide concerts.

Visit online at averysharpe.com/

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Bass Videos

New Gear: Spector Woodstock Custom Collection Volume II

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New Gear: Spector Woodstock Custom Collection Volume II

Spector Launches Woodstock Custom Collection Volume II…

Spector Musical Instruments expands their celebrated Woodstock Custom Collection with the Volume II series – a breathtaking series of 12 handcrafted, one-of-a-kind bass guitars, each one masterfully designed by members of the Spector team. Crafted in the Spector USA Custom Shop in Woodstock, New York, these works of art go beyond musical instruments and expand the boundaries of Spector Bass design.

Spector’s iconic design lays the foundation for the Volume II collection. Each bass showcases a unique vision, including the selection of tonewoods, electronics, captivating finishes, and intricate design details. The collection highlights Spector’s commitment to craftsmanship and artistry and the individual people and stories that make up the team.

“The Woodstock Custom Collection was such a huge success, and we had so much fun with it that we couldn’t wait to do it again,” said John Stippell, Director – Korg Bass Division. “With Volume II, we’re expanding on everything we learned from the first collection, as well as pushing our design and Custom Shop team even further. These basses are a testament to the inspiring talent, creativity, and skill of every person on the Spector team. I’m excited for all of these basses and love how they tell the unique stories of all involved.”

Visit online at spectorbass.com/

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