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SA With Martin Simpson: An Interview with Barry Irwin



SA With Martin Simpson: An Interview with Barry Irwin

SA With Martin Simpson: An Interview with Barry Irwin

I met Barry for the first time, around 2002 and invited him down to a South African Bass Players Collective meet to give us a workshop. Barry’s complete mastery and total command of the instrument had us all enthralled and most of us will probably remember the evening for the rest of our lives. Like Pino Palladino and Lee Sklar he oozes musicality and like my friend Concord Nkabinde, Barry sees himself as a musician who happens to use a bass to serve the music – which essentially, is a place where we, as bassists, should all be living! 

Barry talks the way he plays – no-nonsense – take it or leave it – that’s the way it is. 

I approached Barry in September and asked him if he’d like to do an Interview for this magazine and his response was “Hmmm, let’s see how it goes”. Lucky for us, he sat down with the questions I posed and because of his vast experience and knowledge, he was able to give us this incredibly insightful and very enjoyable interview. 

[Martin] How long have you been playing Barry? 

[Barry Irwin] I picked up the bass in 66, and have been a “low life” ever since. 

[Martin] How did you get started? 

[Barry Irwin] One thing usually leads to another. I studied piano as a kid with Muriel Inch who taught at CBC in Kimberley. My lessons were at 6.40am. I used to freeze my ass off on those cold winter mornings. I did Trinity College of London exams for a few years. Then the Beatles came out and we all wanted to play guitar. My cousin, who was a very talented guy, taught me chords on the guitar and we would all play Beatles tunes and all the music of that era. I was also the lead drummer in a boy’s brigade, which actually led me to be a drummer in a band called the “Sapphires” before I played bass. Everything felt very natural as a young boy playing music, unfortunately, my family discovered that I was slipping out of the house on weekend nights to play in hotels and put an end to my drumming ‘career’ I guess someone ratted on me because I was 11 sitting at a kit of drums with a beer at my side. For a few years, I didn’t play anything but piano, which we had at home.

At about 16, I got this call from my mate to play bass in his band. I knew nothing about playing bass but having studied music and having played guitar, I figured “Why not?” That band didn’t go anywhere as we never gigged, but it gave me a taste for the axe. A few months later I was playing with a guy called Al Bentley who had done some recordings and was trying to make a comeback. We would play the odd gig here and there and “pleasure resorts” on the weekends (to this generation it probably sounds like a porn factory but it was just a place outdoors where people would go on weekends and lots of bands would play. That didn’t last very long either, but led to a band called “Birds Of A Feather.” We won a national band competition sponsored by Lucky Strike Cigarettes. The prize was $100 and a tour of concerts on some military bases around SA. That was pretty freaky at the time as we all had long hair, and back in 66/67 it wasn’t sociably accepted.

I remember walking out of a café in some little Afrikaans town and some kids with their mother started to scream when they saw us. The mother assured the children that we would not eat them. It was a real transition time in SA. We still had students jumping over the fence at RAU to cut people’s hair at peaceful rock festivals because they didn’t approve. Birds Of A Feather ended up playing at a club in Rosetenville called the 19th Level, which was very successful back then. I joined “Freedoms Children” a few years later, and was privileged to replace Ramsay McKay the bassist/songwriter and contribute to the 3rd album. As much as I enjoyed playing with that band, and the recognition it received, I always wanted to play more kinds of tunes.

We would visit a place on tour and if there was a band playing in the hotel I would be jealous of the bass player because he was playing more tunes than I was. It didn’t matter that our band was more famous. 

When I joined Omega Ltd. In Salisbury Rhodesia I pretty much got that chance to play a lot of different pop tunes. I also spent a few years doing the Swaziland/Botswana cabaret circuit where I worked with a lot of different international acts. On returning to Joburg in ’74 I got a chance to be the bass player in “Godspell” where I replaced Arthur Stead as MD when he went to the US. A few years later Arthur came back to SA and Cedric Samson and I managed to persuade him to hook up with us and we started a band called “Scandal”. When Arthur went back to Boston we got Lionel Pillay and Josh Sclair into the band. I stayed 6 months or so then left for the US at the end of ’76. (Nippy Cripwell took over on bass) So that’s pretty much how I got started. 

[Martin] What are the instruments you currently use? 

[Barry Irwin] These are the basses that I still own but have been replaced on the gig by just one, my MTD 535. I would still take the P bass to a Motown or blues gig as that’s tradition and the sound, but the MTD is always a safe bet if I’m not sure what kind of gig it will be. The MTD can really manage them all. All my basses are US made.

MTD 535.
76/77 Musicman
62 Fender Precision (original)
77 Fender Jazz
50th anniversary 5-string Fender jazz.
NYC Empire bass. (Fodera)
Lackland 5 string.
Lackland hollow body- designed by Michael Tobias. 

[Martin] What instruments would you like to have if money were no object? 

[Barry Irwin] My MTD 535 is the last bass I will own. If money were no object I would get another one. I played 3 Classic Tobias basses in the 80’s and 90’s and felt that they were great instruments but for me something was missing. Whatever that missing subjective sound was, the 535 sure have it. It’s really the best sounding, well-rounded bass I have ever played. Not to mention the fact that Michael Tobias is there for people that own his instruments and he really does make his own instruments, which is more than can be said about most companies out there today. I highly recommend his instruments. 

[Martin] What have you been doing for the last five years or so? 

[Barry Irwin] 5 years ago I was living in Vancouver BC. I took a year off from playing and spent the time writing music and trying to focus on who I really was as a musician. I love writing and that’s what I spend most of my time doing. It’s a form of therapy, the way I analyze and keep in touch with myself as a musician. It’s a direct reflection of what’s going on with me all the time. 

To earn a living, I work on cruise ships which in the past allowed me to do all the writing I wanted, but that time is getting scarce as it becomes more corporate and musicians are seen in the same light as dishwashers, where you need to put in your 30+ hours a week. When I retire from playing I hope to earn a living out of writing, but for now I am just spending the time writing for the sake of producing material. I play 30+ hours a week at sea. I spent years doing that in South Africa, and New England and other countries I have lived in. It makes me feel like a working bass player. I have no complaints with that. 

[Martin] What recordings that you’ve played on would you recommend for listening? 

[Barry Irwin] None. Earlier recordings have no relevance to my playing today. Also, a lot of what I did in Boston was never released, as it wasn’t commercially viable. I was never interested in commercial recording as I discovered that someone else always made the money and I never felt a need for fame. 

There are many studio players and other great bass players that have dedicated their lives to the craft and to the bass. Listen to them. On electric bass in the jazz and fusion world there’s Richard Bona, Steve Swallow, Carlos Benavent, Anthony Jackson, Marcus Miller, Jaco Pastorius, Victor Wooten, Gary Willis, Victor Bailey, Jeff Berlin, John Patitucci, Christian Mc Bride and many others, like Brian Bromberg, who is such an unbelievable player on both the electric and upright. A major inspiration to any serious bassist, irrespective of style. He has covered an amazing body of work, which deserves serious listening attention. He epitomizes a bass player that has studied the likes of Stanley Clark and Jaco Pastorius but has gone on to discover his own voice, which he delivers with authority.

If we’re talking bass then we all need to lend an ear to this guy. 

I dedicated my life to music more so than to the bass. I just happen to have played it as a profession for a very long time and have been fortunate to do so. Now that I have finally bought a place to live, I will spend the next few years compiling a library of the music I have written and performed over the years. There will probably be lots of stuff to listen to then. 

Today we have so much technology at our disposal that it’s possible to project one’s own personal statement as a musician. That might not make me “great” but it will reflect who I truly am as a musician. Let’s face it when you listen to Mozart you hear Mozart. You don’t hear Mozart with a middle section written by Hayden. Musicians were truly musicians back then. 

Today what usually makes albums great or for that matter even a concert is the collective thing rather than the individual. I will never be a master but I can achieve my own vision statement. To many, that’s frightening, to me, that’s also what it’s all about. Don’t get me wrong two minds are greater than one, but my point being that getting Ron Carter to play on my album will probably get me to sell more albums, but it certainly won’t make me a better bass player or musician.

I think I would very much like to hear a solo album done by Wayne Shorter reflecting his life work. How amazing that would be! 

[Martin] What’s been the low point in your career so far? And what has been the high point? 

[Barry Irwin] Young people in this generation have high and low points in careers. To me and a lot of my generation of musicians, playing bass or being a musician was not about highs and lows. Growing up playing music was not about thinking of a career, but rather about just wanting to play. Speaking about getting paid was often embarrassing. I never wanted to discuss money. I just wanted to play.

The high points and the low points of my “career” happen on the gig. It still does. Standing up on a stage with great musicians does not necessarily make you great, nor is it particularly a high point in your career. Rather, the power to connect will make you great and be the high point. How often does that happen? Someone else usually tells you because you’re too busy trying to take care of business to even notice. Highs and lows are just perceptions. It’s like a note. Once you’ve played it, it’s gone.

[Martin] What are your goals currently? 

[Barry Irwin]

To live in peace.

To become more attuned to my creator

To keep writing and staying creative.

To love respect, and show compassion.

To be beholden to no one (if that’s possible).

To follow my heart and always be true to my self.

To be healthy, and be the best musician and husband I can be. 

[Martin] That, to me, sounds like ‘The seven commandments to self’ – if we all had that approach to life, this world would be a much healthier place. Any advice for younger bass players? 

[Barry Irwin] As a young bass player Jack Bruce influenced me. There were others like John Entwhistle (probably the first bass solo on a rock tune with the Who’s “My Generation”) and Chris Squire. They were very different in their approach to the bass and their different styles inspired me. Back then the air was thick with those amazing bass lines on the Motown records. Later I found out that that was James Jameson, and Duck Dunn on a lot of the Stax stuff. Tower Of Powers Rocco Prestia was another influence. “There was also female bass player Carol Kaye that played some great bass lines on late 60’sand 70’s recordings. She has some bass books that are still wonderful studies in the art of line and riff construction. It’s a certain era of commercial bass playing that had a lot of creativity. They are well worth studying and enjoyable too. 

As you learn more about the bass it obviously leads to more listening and when it came to Jazz it was Ray Brown. There were 3 bass books back then. A classical book (Simandel), a contemporary one written by an English bass player (He wrote “What’s New” which became a big standard) and Rays book. I studied out of Rays, but it would be years before I would have a chance to use the stuff I learned there as no one I knew played jazz.

When I started to become more interested in Jazz it was more listening than playing like the ECM stuff, with Eberhard Weber and Gary Peacock playing with Keith Jarret (who incidentally is still my favourite pianist). Ron Carter was doing a lot of stuff with Herbie Hancock, Miles, and a lot of other people. When I first got to Berklee in Boston I thought that I was going to be playing all the Return To Forever/Spain stuff we used to play in “Scandal” at the “Branch Office” in Joburg. I figured that was how I was going to progress. Well I was wrong. I ended up playing and studying people like Paul Chambers and Charlie Parker. I got into the Bebop thing and that taught me a lot about what people like Jaco and Stanley and all the great bass players were doing. Studying with Charlie Banacos didn’t hurt either. What an incredible teacher!

I guess you just have to follow your dreams and often you will be amazed. Don’t keep looking back, and try not to hang on to things, or be too judgemental. The world never stays still, nor do we, as people. Change is inevitable. Trends and styles come and go. The key is to keep learning and studying music. Study harmony, writing and arranging and study the bass itself. Learn piano. Take lessons. 

There is a big difference between being able to play the bass, and to be able to play a bass line on the bass. Both, and a lot more are required of a good bass player. For me, there are only two types of music, that being good and bad. Keep an open mind. Music is a lifelong study. It’s not just about the bass. It’s the bottom to the top, and the top to the bottom in all music, which is our main concern when playing or listening. If you can’t commit, don’t go there. One day, feeding your family will be really important and being a musician is not the easiest path to choose. It’s a hard life that requires commitment and dedication but it’s a fulfilling one.

If you are not a renowned player at 30 you probably never will be. That’s no reason not to play, not everyone can be Scott Lafaro or Charles Mingus or like the guys I mentioned. Those are all very gifted individuals, yet each and every one of them put in the time they needed to. If you have music in your heart and soul you will do whatever it takes to succeed. At the same time being successful is being able to live with you and love yourself in a healthy and non-selfish way. There will always be someone who plays better than you. Be happy that you have someone that you can learn from. There may be a lot you can teach that person too. 

One more thing… If all you do is play solos on your bass then your gigging days are numbered. If all you play is bass on your bass then you will have a number of gigs. It’s your choice how you want to do it.

(A message for the New Year)

We live in an age of manufactured news. An age, one step away from a break dance, or just losing everything we have. Everything is so blatantly in front of our noses if we choose to see it. The wars we fight. The people we kill, the soldiers we bury. This, that, and all the other of life’s doings. So many places, so many times. A busy schedule of life and death of fashion, music, movies, religion, media… CNN. “All the best of the best, doing the best for the best” It’s all become a big part of our reality and has to a certain extent shaped what and how we think. Even who we are, and how we feel. It’s time for individual thinking, not to be provoked to ascertain some comprehension of a well-polished piece of crap that’s irrelevant to our being. In some ways we may have become a society of sheep. Individuality has been misplaced. We all need to take a reality check from time to time. What a big surprise it can be. Life throwing you that curve ball that says “wow! I really have been living in a bit of a dream world. I do have a responsibility as a human being to at least strive to achieve greatness in what I do, and in who I am, to speak out for the betterment of humanity”(Even at the expense of being misunderstood) It’s not just the work of an artist, a musician, a painter, a poet, or thinker. It’s everyone’s responsibility. Our world needs us as much as we need it. We can make a difference in such simple ways by just committing to thinking. But it’s also important what we think, our actions and words. We have the tools to do that. Why not use it. You’d be surprised at how well we can control our own lives. So sing your own tune, do your own dance. Write your own music and live your own life. Respect individuality. We can then take a big step forward, and take our world to a better place.


[Martin] Barry has sent along 2 pdf files (download below), which are part of a condensed score of a piece he wrote for this bass article. It is a scored for 2 basses in octave unison, a 3rd bass playing the ostinato bass pattern. The piano part can also be played by 2 x 6 string basses (or a marimba), so it’s possible to have a total of 5 bass players playing it (which would sound very cool). An acoustic bass should play the ostinato bass pattern.


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Bass Books

Interview With Barker Bass’s Inventor and Writer Lee Barker



Interview With Barker Bass's Inventor and Writer Lee Barker

If you are an electric bass player, this is an exciting time to be alive as this relatively new instrument evolves around us. Some creative individuals have taken an active role in this evolution and made giant leaps in their own direction. Lee Barker is one of these inventive people having created the Barker Bass. 

Fortunately, Lee is also an excellent writer (among so many talents) and has recently released his book “Plausible Gumption, The Road Between a Christmas Toolbox and The Barker Bass”. This book is a very fun read for everyone and shares a ton of details about Lee’s life in general, his experiences as a musician, a radio host, and a luthier. Now I am fortunate to have the great opportunity to gain even more insights into this renaissance man with this video interview.

Plausible Gumption, The Road Between a Christmas Toolbox and The Barker Bass is available online at 

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Bergantino Welcomes Michael Byrnes to Their Family of Artists



Bergantino Welcomes Michael Byrnes to Their Family of Artists

Interview and photo courtesy of Holly Bergantino of Bergantino Audio Systems

With an expansive live show and touring, Mt. Joy bassist Michael Byrnes shares his experiences with the joyful, high-energy band!

Michael Byrnes has kept quite a busy touring schedule for the past few years with his band, Mt. Joy. With a philosophy of trial and error, he’s developed quite the routines for touring, learning musical instruments, and finding the right sound. While on the road, we were fortunate to have him share his thoughts on his music, history, and path as a musician/composer. 

Let’s start from the very beginning, like all good stories. What first drew
you to music as well as the bass? 

My parents required my sister and I to play an instrument.  I started on piano and really didn’t like it so when I wanted to quit my parents made me switch to another instrument and I chose drums.  Then as I got older and started forming bands there were never any bass players.  When I turned 17 I bought a bass and started getting lessons.  I think with drums I loved music and I loved the idea of playing music but when I started playing bass I really got lost in it.  I was completely hooked.

Can you tell us where you learned about music, singing, and composing?

A bit from teachers and school but honestly I learned the most from just going out and trying it.  I still feel like most of the time I don’t know what I am doing but I do know that if I try things I will learn.  

What other instruments do you play?

A bit of drums but that’s it.  For composing I play a lot of things but I fake it till I make and what I can’t fake I will ask a friend! 

I know you are also a composer for film and video. Can you share more
about this with us?

Pretty new to it at the moment.  It is weirdly similar to the role of a bass player in the band.  You are using music to emphasize and lift up the storyline.  Which I feel I do with the bass in a band setting.  Kind of putting my efforts into lifting the song and the other musicians on it.

Everybody loves talking about gear. How do you achieve your “fat” sound?

I just tinker till it’s fat lol.  Right now solid-state amps have been helping me get there a little quicker than tube amps.  That’s why I have been using the Bergantino Forté HP2 –  Otherwise I have to say the cliche because it is true…. It’s in the hands.  

Describe your playing style(s), tone, strengths and/or areas that you’d like
to explore on the bass.

I like to think of myself as a pretty catchy bass player.  I need to ask my bandmates to confirm!  But I think when improvising and writing bass parts I always am trying to sneak little earworms into the music.   I want to explore 5-string more!

Who are your influences?

I can’t not mention James Jamerson.  Where would any of us be if it wasn’t for him?  A lesser-known bassist who had a huge effect on me is Ben Kenney.  He is the second bassist in the band Incubus and his playing on the Crow Left the Murder album completely opened me up to the type of bass playing I aspire towards.  When I first started playing I was really just listening to a lot of virtuosic bassists.  I was loving that but I couldn’t see myself realistically playing like that.  It wasn’t from a place of self-doubt I just deep down knew that wasn’t me.  Ben has no problem shredding but I was struck by how much he would influence the song through smaller movements and reharmonizing underneath the band.  His playing isn’t really in your face but from within the music, he could move mountains.   That’s how I want to play.    

What was the first bass you had? Do you still have it?

A MIM Fender Jazz and I do still have it.  It’s in my studio as we speak.  I rarely use it these days but I would never get rid of it.  

(Every bass player’s favorite part of an interview and a read!) Tell us about
your favorite bass or basses. 🙂

I guess I would need to say that MIM Jazz bass even though I don’t play it much.  I feel connected to that one.  Otherwise, I have been playing lots of great amazing basses through the years.  I have a Serek that I always have with me on the road (shout out Jake).   Also have a 70’s Mustang that 8 times out of 10 times is what I use on recordings.  Otherwise, I am always switching it up.  I find that after a while the road I just cycle basses in and out.  Even if I cycle out a P bass for another P bass.  

What led you to Bergantino Audio Systems?

My friend and former roommate Edison is a monster bassist and he would gig with a cab of yours all the time years ago.  Then when I was shopping for a solid state amp the Bergantino Forté HP2 kept popping up.  Then I saw Justin Meldal Johnsen using it on tour with St. Vincent and I thought alright I’ll give it a try!

Can you share a little bit with us about your experience with the Bergantino
forte HP amplifier? I know you had this out on tour in 2023 and I am pretty
certain the forte HP has been to more countries than I have.

It has been great!   I had been touring with a 70’s SVT which was great but from room to room, it was a little inconsistent.  I really was picky with the type of power that we had on stage.  After a while, I thought maybe it is time to just retire this to the studio.  So I got that Forte because I had heard that it isn’t too far of a leap from a tube amp tone-wise.  Plus I knew our crew would be much happier loading a small solid state amp over against the 60 lbs of SVT.  It has sounded great and has really remained pretty much the same from night to night.  Sometimes I catch myself hitting the bright switch depending on the room and occasionally I will use the drive on it.

You have recently added the new Berg NXT410-C speaker cabinet to your
arsenal. Thoughts so far?

It has sounded great in the studio.  I haven’t gotten a chance to take it on the road with us but I am excited to put it through the paces!

You have been touring like a madman all over the world for the past few
years. Any touring advice for other musicians/bass players? And can I go to Dublin, Ireland with you all??

Exercise!  That’s probably the number one thing I can say.  Exercise is what keeps me sane on the road and helps me regulate the ups and downs of it.  Please come to Dublin! I can put you on the guest list! 

It’s a cool story on how the Mt. Joy band has grown so quickly! Tell us
more about Mt. Joy, how it started, where the name comes from, who the
members are and a little bit about this great group?

Our singer and guitarist knew each other in high school and have made music together off and on since.  Once they both found themselves living in LA they decided to record a couple songs and put out a Craigslist ad looking for a bassist.  At the time I had just moved to LA and was looking for anyone to play with.  We linked up and we recorded what would become the first Mt. Joy songs in my house with my friend Caleb producing.  Caleb has since produced our third album and is working on our fourth with us now. Once those songs came out we needed to form a full band to be able to do live shows.  I knew our drummer from gigging around LA and a mutual friend of all of us recommended Jackie.  From then on we’ve been on the road and in the studio.  Even through Covid.

Describe the music style of Mt. Joy for me.

Folk Rock with Jam influences

What are your favorite songs to perform?

Always changing but right now it is ‘Let Loose’

What else do you love to do besides bass?


I always throw in a question about food. What is your favorite food?

I love a good chocolate croissant.

Follow Michael Byrnes:
Instagram: @mikeyblaster

Follow Mt. Joy Band:

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Bass Videos

Artist Update With Mark Egan, Cross Currents



Artist Update With Mark Egan, Cross Currents

I am sure many of you are very familiar with Mark Egan as we have been following him and his music for many years now. The last time we chatted was in 2020.

Mark teamed up with drummer Shawn Pelton and guitarist Shane Theriot to produce a new album, “Cross Currents” released on March 8th, 2024. I have been listening to this album in its entirety and it is simply superb (See my review).

Now, I am excited to hear about this project from Mark himself and share this conversation with our bass community in Bass Musician Magazine.

Photo courtesy of Mark Egan

Visit Online:
Apple Music
Amazon Music

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Bass Videos

Interview With By the Thousands Bassist Adam Sullivan



Interview With By the Thousands Bassist Adam Sullivan

Bassist Adam Sullivan…

Hailing from Minnesota since 2012, By the Thousands has produced some serious Technical Metal/Deathcore music. Following their recent EP “The Decent”s release, I have the great opportunity to chat with bassist Adam Sullivan.

Join me as we hear about Adam’s musical Journey, his Influences, how he gets his sound, and the band’s plans for the future

Photo, Laura Baker

Follow On Social

IG &FB @bythethousands
YTB @BytheThousands

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Gear News: Bergantino Welcomes Marc Brownstein to Their Family of Artists



bassist marc browstein

Bergantino Welcomes Marc Brownstein to Their Family of Artists

Bergantino Shares: The innovative bassist/sonic explorer/DJ Marc Brownstein discusses his life of touring with Disco Biscuits, the current tour with the new album “Revolution in Motion, and more!

By Holly Bergantino

Marc Brownstein is the king of “Trance-Fusion” – a subgenre that his band Disco Biscuits has been in the center of for the past two decades. As a founding member of the band from their days at UPenn, Marc has quite the experience under his belt, and each tour has gotten more and more exciting. Disco Biscuits is currently on tour with their new album Revolution in Motion, a full multimedia experience accompanied by a 25-minute animated film that tells a story of intergalactic travelers finding their way on Earth. 

D. J. Brownie! What made you want to be a musician and start playing bass and who drew you to it? 

I was drawn to music after John Lennon was assassinated. I was raised in NYC and the city was just going crazy. I was 7 years old at the time and my thought was, wow why is everyone freaking out so much, this guy must be really special. And so I started to check the Beatles out and that was the beginning of my journey with music.  

A question from one of your fans and fellow bass players Karina Rykman: “How do you keep your bubble of positivity intact and thriving”?

Well it’s funny she should ask. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the run of positivity we are experiencing now began right at the beginning of tour at the beginning of January 2023 when we had Karina opening for us for a week. I can say that her positive energy on tour definitely left its mark on the rest of our tour. Some people are so naturally happy and positive that it leaves you feeling that way, sometimes permanently! 

Besides the bass guitar, what other instruments do you play? 

I dabble with piano, guitar, and I can make my way around a drum kit if I get into it for a few weeks. I’ve played flute and saxophone as well at different times. I also play the double bass. But I would say Piano is my second instrument at this point. I play everyday. 

What is your favorite (and least favorite) thing about touring? 

The best part of touring is the 4 hours on stage with the band. But also getting to visit so many great places all of the time. That’s the silver lining.  The only thing I don’t love about touring is missing my family. 

Tell us about your first music teacher. What lesson did you learn from this person and still use today? 

My first music teacher, Mrs. Koslov, 2nd grade, I just was at her funeral a few weeks ago. I eventually became best friends with Mrs Koslov’s son and we stayed in touch for my whole life. She taught me a lot but really she was the one who gave me the courage to perform. My first public performance ever was a piano version of Eleanor Rigby. 

What was the first bass you had? 

This is tough. I think I had a standard Ibanez jazz style bass first. Within a year or two I got an American Fender Jazz bass. 

What are the basses you have and use now? 

My main bass is an Elrick 5 string by Rob Elrick. I also have a Q5 Modulus and an Alembic 5 as well. Oteil (Burbridge) sent me a Roscoe custom 6 during the Pandemic that I like to play. I also have a Sire Marcus Miller, a newer American Fender Jazz bass, a custom Ibanez SDGR, an Ibanez BTB and an Elrick 5 string Fretless bass which is my main bass at home. 

Who were the musicians who inspired you and what qualities do you admire about them? 

I was deeply influenced by Phish when I discovered them in college. I admired their ability to mesh jazz, classical and rock Improvisational styles. I was very inspired by classic jazz musicians. Miles. Monk. Coltrane. Dexter Gordon. Cannonball Adderly. Mingus. This is the generation of musicians that laid the groundwork for what we do now. 

You studied and started the band Disco Biscuits at UPenn. Tell us more about the origins. 

The band just sort of linked up in the quad (dormitory) and we started to set up our gear and jam for fun. Within a short time I realized the guys I was playing with were really talented and so I applied to the New School for jazz and went and spent a year crash coursing music at a high level so I could return to Penn and start a band with them. 

You have a new album “Revolution in Motion,” that you’re currently touring on. How is it going? 

The tour has been amazing. It’s one of the best tours we ever had in our career. We sold out more than half of the shows and are receiving really great feedback across the country. 

I watched the video on YT for Revolution in Motion. The Choreography, production, color, cartoon characters, and theme were so much fun. Space aliens and psychedelic art, pop ups like a comic book, and you in your alien jump suit with your baseball cap were amazing. Loved! How was this collaborated?  

We have a co-writer on this project named Joey friedman. He conceived of the concept for the album and he had a very specific vision for what the visuals would look like. He spent hours and hours with the animators (Blunt Action) and the AI animator (Todd Kushnir) working through each iteration to make it come to life in the way that it was conceived. 

How would you describe the music you create for Disco Biscuits? 

We always hoped that the music we created would be the weirdest and craziest music of all time but we describe it as Trance-Fusion, which was a name that was drawn from jazz-fusion, the mixing of jazz with rock and roll instruments. We found our own sound by mixing trance music with rock and roll instruments, hence the genre title. It was renamed jamtronica many years later by the folks over at SiriusXM who started a radio show called the Jamtronica show to highlight acts from our scene. I was the host of that show for the first 3 years. 

Describe the creative process when you write new music. 

These days the creative process is a team effort. Usually we start by combing through improvisational sections of music from the tours to see if we can find any melodies or chord structures that are song worthy. When we find it we bring it into our DAW (ableton) and creating a grid. This is easy for us because we often play to a time clock on stage. From there we start building out the structures of the new piece of music while Joey and maybe me or Aron or Jon will start working on some lyrical concepts. Within an hour or two we start to record some of these initial lyrics and melodies and Jon usually starts to adapt them and tweak them to make them comfortable for him to sing. Usually within a few hours we are able to walk away with a very advanced demo of a new song. It’s been an extremely fruitful experience that has left us with albums worth of the best material we’ve had in decades. 

The lighting for your shows is amazing. Who does the lighting design work and choreography for the tours? 

Our new LD is known as Herm, but his name is Alex. We know him as Herm though. He came to us from the band Twiddle at the beginning of this year and has totally revitalized the visual elements of the stage show. He’s a really great fit and we feel grateful to have been linked up with such a massive talent. It was luck and timing and some might call it fate. 

How would your bandmates describe you? 

My bandmates would probably describe me as energetic and talkative and headstrong but also they might notice that I’ve become really good at going with the flow and backing their creative instincts. They may further describe me as anxious and nervous but may also notice that these elements have been remediated of recent. Mostly I think they would describe me as loyal and dedicated. 

How did you find Bergantino Audio systems? 

I was first introduced to it by Ed Grasmeyer who I know as Mike Gordon’s tech in Burlington. I was playing a show at Nectars and needed a backline and Ed came and set me up with the ForteHP2 and I was blown away by the tone. I then noticed Karina Rykman was using Bergantino as well and that’s when I started to think I needed to get in contact with the company. Karina was opening for the Biscuits on Boston and that’s where I had the chance to demo the forte hp2 in the context of the biscuits stage show. I haven’t looked back since that night. 

Tell us about your experience with the Forté HP2 on the tour? 

There are so many things that I can say about it but the most notable is that I’m not struggling to hear the frequencies that I want to hear on stage anymore. I used to have to boost the bass everywhere. In an EQ pedal, on the preamp on the actual bass. But every time you add a little of those low frequencies in those other places you risk degrading the tone of the signal. With the Forte HP2 there is a punch button that gives me exactly the frequency I’m looking for. 100 hz. 4 db. It’s perfect. 

Did you think Jim talked too much when you met him in Boston? 

I will never notice when someone talks too much because chances are I’m out talking them. 

What’s your process for dealing with performance anxiety? 

I used to self-medicate for this purpose but I was recently in touch with a psychiatrist who has helped me regulate my own chemical imbalances and I have found that my performance anxiety isn’t really an issue when I have the proper amount of dopamine in the system! 

Imagine that you’re at a party and it’s a little stale. What’s the “party trick” (or hidden talent) that you’d bust out to liven the place up? 

Before the app existed I was known as a real life fruit ninja. I take a big knife and people throw fruit from across the room and I chop it in half in mid-air. It’s not the safest party trick anymore because I lost vision in my right eye a few years ago and I’m not as accurate as I used to be! 

What hobbies do you have outside of music? 

I love sports. I love reading. I love word games. I love gardening. I love hiking/running/moving. My biggest hobby was snowboarding for many years but I’ve grown injury prone and stay off the mountain these days. 

What is the most trouble you ever got into? 

Well, I managed to stay out of trouble until college. But before weed was legalized I had a series of run-ins with the law and spent a night in the clink in Amherst Mass during my freshman year fraternity pledge trip. Luckily this isn’t an issue anymore for those of us who don’t drink or smoke cigarettes but prefer a little of the wacky tabacky to cool down. 

What is the message you would give to your fans? 

Well I give them so many messages all the time but the most important one that I try to remember to keep constant is a message of gratitude. Thank you so much for sticking with us through thick and thin, through ups and downs, for decades now you have allowed us to live our dreams and have the most blessed lives possible. 

How do you feel social media has impacted your music? 

Social media is a double edged sword. It has allowed us to create a strong community where everyone feels like a family but for someone like me who gets addicted to things easily, I really have to be vigilant with practice and writing and other aspects of my life not to spend the whole day scrolling and wasting the time away. 

What is your favorite song of all time? 

Right now my favorite song of all time is probably a short and beautiful little ditty by Labi Siffre called Bless the Telephone. I would suggest everyone take the 1:29 to listen to it and feel the bliss. 

What did I miss for a question that you would like to share? 

Bass players don’t really get to play solo shows, at least not my style of bass, so I’ve had to learn how to DJ in order to perform by myself at times and I would suggest coming out to see a DJ Brownie show at some point. 

Last one! Describe your perfect meal! 

I love to eat great meals. I’m partial to Asian foods but the perfect meal to me is one slice of pizza from Freddie and Peppers on 72nd and Amsterdam in NYC. PERFECTION. 

Follow Marc Brownstein:
Instagram: @marcbrownstein
X (formerly Twitter): @marc_brownstein

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