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Progressive Rock With Brad Houser: Umphrey’s McGee’s “Mantis” – Bassist Ryan Stasik



Meet Brad Houser –

Umphrey’s McGee – “Mantis”
Bassist – Ryan Stasik

This band has my vote for best progressive rock band on the planet… For one reason… According to bassist Ryan Stasik, 40-60% of each live show is improvised………………….!!

These guys have all the classic elements of prog: detailed, sometimes lengthy compositions, odd meters (a prog requirement), blistering solos, major chops. The only missing element is that there are “no songs about mythological beasts”, according to bassist Ryan Stasik.

Active since 1997, Umphrey’s have become major players on the American “jam band” scene. They share common ground with other bands such as Phish, Widespread Panic, and the Grateful Dead in that their set lists constantly change, they typically do two sets per night, allow taping of shows, and collectively improvise. Otherwise, they have little in common with the other bands on the jam scene. Heavily influenced by bands such as Yes, King Crimson, Pink Floyd, Gentle Giant, Frank Zappa, Iron Maiden, the Police, Led Zeppelin…………… these guys are amazing songwriters.

Released in January, 2009, “Mantis” is their most recent studio effort. Featuring stellar musicianship in every chair, this recording shows Umphrey’s to be a progressive band in top form; Great vocals, superb song-craft. Some might find it too intense, although probably not for the average reader of this magazine. Available on iTunes…….

A few days ago I had the pleasure of speaking with bassist Ryan Stasik for a few minutes.

BH- Upon listening to your latest studio recording, I’m reminded of Gentle Giant, King Crimson…

RS- Definitely. We’ve all checked them out a lot.

BH- Your main lead guitarist, Jake Cinninger, is amazing. At the recent show I caught (Bear Creek Festival), I was hearing a strong dose of Eric Johnson in his playing.

RS- He is also heavily into Buck Dharma from Blue Oyster Cult. Jake started out as a drummer, by age 12 he was playing drums in biker-rock bands, the rest of the guys in the band were 26 or so. He’s been playing guitar since about age 10.

BH- Wow……….. When did you start playing bass?

RS- Around ’96, in college. I had a Les Paul guitar, sold that to Brendan (Bayliss, singer/guitarist), scraped some $$ together and got a bass. I played piano since age 5, and played guitar for a few years.

BH- When did you get that Lakland (55-94, 5-string)?

RS- Around 2003-4. It’s great, versatile, tons of different sounds. I live in Chicago, where they are made, so I can just go to their shop when I need an adjustment on it.

BH- They’re great, I use one of their hollowbodies as my main bass.

RS- I have one of those, too. I love recording with it.

BH- What are some your main influences on bass?

RS- I was born in ’76, so I was influenced by a lot of the popular 80’s bands, Guns n’ Roses, Aerosmith, Pantera, White Zombie, Prong. I wasn’t really listening to bass at the time. Later on I discovered Jaco, Yes, Gentle Giant, and Frank Zappa. Duff from Guns ‘n Roses and Krist Novoselic of Nirvana influenced me a lot.

BH- Who are the main writers in the band?

RS- Jake brings in totally finished recordings of songs, and we learn them. Brendan brings in finished songs as well. Joel, our keyboardist, brings in songs also. I tend to bring in ideas that get fleshed out by the band. We also write live as a group a lot. 40-60% of our live shows are improvised. We have live talkback mics and in-ears for cues, also hand signals and “dance steps” that we have developed.

BH- Incredible. Your drummer (Kris Myers) is a monster.

RS- He joined in 03. He was literally the first guy we heard on audition tapes, and as soon as we started playing with him for the first time, we knew he was it. Plus, it turned out that he lived right down the street……….

BH- Convenient!

RS- He loves to play. One night we finished our last song, and Kris just kept going, turned into about a 7 minute drum solo, great show closer.

BH- the Energizer Bunny on drums………… What about your live rig?

RS- I use an Ampeg vintage reissue SVT, with a 410 and 115 cab, and a GK 2001 RB with a 412 cab. Also, I use Moog Taurus III pedals, they’re more road worthy than the Taurus II, which broke a lot. I also use a phaser, octave pedal (Boss), and a Source Audio Hot Hands.

BH- What’s that?

RS- It’s a laser ring that goes on your finger or the bass, and you can change the sounds of their pedals on the fly. Pretty cool.

BH- Sounds like it!

RS- I also today just got an MXR Octave Deluxe pedal, which I think will be good.

BH- What’s next?

RS- We did 3 nights at the Riviera Theater in Chicago on New Year’s, and in 2011 we’ll be headlining Prog Fest, and we will also be playing at Jam The Dam in Amsterdam.

BH- Thanks for your time, it’s been a pleasure.

RS- See you next time.

Catch these guys live, on YouTube, or on the web. Not to be missed.

Happy 2011 Everyone-

Bass Videos

Interview With Bassist Ciara Moser



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: 
IG @ moserciara
FB @ ciara.moser

Photos by Manuela Haeussler

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Bass Videos

Interview With Bassist Travis Book



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:
FB @ TheTravisBook
IG @ travisbook

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Bass Videos

Interview with Malcolm-Jamal Warner



Interview with Malcolm-Jamal Warner

Malcolm-Jamal Warner…

I am pretty sure that everyone is aware of Malcom-Jamal Warner’s work as an actor. What may be less known is his work as a director, poet, musician, and most importantly for us, a bass player. With four albums of his own, Grammy nominations and wins, as well as a sizable amount of ongoing live gigs, Malcolm is dedicating a serious amount of his attention to his music.

Join me as we hear about Malcom’s musical journey, projects, his gear choices, and plans for the future.

Here is Malcom-Jamal Warner!

Photos: Dwain Govan @dwain_go / Conrad Montgomery Mckethan @eyeconimages

Visit Online:
IG @malcolmjamalwar
Twitter @malcolmjamalwar 
Facebook: Malcolm-Jamal Warner

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Bass Videos

Interview With The Labex Funk Project



Interview With The Labex Funk Project

Interview With The Labex Funk Project…

Time really flies when you are having fun! Just over a decade ago, I had the pleasure of interviewing Michel “Labex” Labaki for our July 2013 cover.

At that time, much of our conversation concerned his personal approach to bass playing and his techniques. Fast forward to now and I am pleased to discover Michel’s new endeavor, the Labex Funk Project.

Join me as we meet the band:
Kynion Lanier on vocals
Pablo Batista on percussion
Jake Brightman on Guitar
Daniel Gonzalez on Drums
And Michel “Labex”Labaki on bass

As a bonus, we have the band’s producer Phillippe Dib in on this video chat as well.

Here is the Labex Funk Project!

Visit online:
FB @LabexFunkProject
IG @ Labex Funk Project

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Bass Videos

Interview With Bassist Tony Newton



Interview With Bassist Tony Newton

Bassist Tony Newton…

I am always learning new details about Bass history when I get the opportunity to talk with seasoned players like Tony Newton. Tony, a Detroit native, came up in the golden years of Motown and laid down the low end for countless performers and studio sessions; he has performed on over 25 gold and platinum hit recordings.

As time went by, and the whole Detroit scene dwindled, Tony relocated to LA where he worked a busy schedule, even going back to school to learn about music theory and composition.

Over the years he performed on many historic hit recordings and tours with Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Diana Ross, Smokey Robinson(music Director), the Temptations, Aretha Franklin, The Funk Brothers and more, as well as working with veteran rock guitarist, Gary Moore in the British group G-Force.

Presently, Tony is super busy and on the verge of releasing a movie titled “Mars Quest” among his numerous other projects.

Join me as we get to enjoy all the history and knowledge that Tony has to share along with the details about his new Signature bass from BITE Guitars named “The  Punchtown Bass”.

Here is Tony Newton…

Photos: Mary K. Brand, Mitch Snyder, Haneefa Karrim, Hans Adamsen

Visit Online:
FB @ TonyNewtonMusic Artist
YTB @ antoniotonynewtonmusic

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