Bassist Ben Zwerin – Bass Musician Magazine Interview… Get to know Bassist Ben Zwerin in this Bass Musician Magazine Q&A!
Born In What City:
Nimes, France but grew up in Paris. I moved to the states when I was 19 and then went to Boston first to go to the Berklee College of Music then NY to really learn about life and music!
Current Band(s) I Play With:
I’m very blessed to be and have been involved with incredible musicians/bands!
- The Commuters: great pop rock!
- LIONZ: features the amazing Lionel Loueke (Herbie Hancock, Terence Blanchard…) and Yuval Lion (Chrissie Hynde, Me’Shell Ndegeocello…). If you don’t know who they are, look them up!
- The Revelations Feat. Tre Williams: old school Soul. Great band, amazing singer! Tre is very old school (think Al Green), which I love!
- Green Lotus Project: all improvised instrumental, groove based funk madness. Incredible collective of musicians! The band was started by drummer Anthony Pinciotti (John Abercrombie…) and guitarist John Caban (Richard Bona, Dispatch…)
- Juancho Herrera: a very NY mix of Latin music, funk, rock and more
- Daisy Jopling: British violinist whose first record with a band I’m producing right now! And what a band: Doug Yowell (Suzanne Vega, Ari Hest…) on drums, Daniel Mintseris (St Vincent, Marianne Faithfull…) on piano and keys, myself on bass and the one and only Bashiri Johnson (Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Miles Davis, Donald Fagen…) on percussion
- Eleanor Dubinsky
And a few others…
Former Bands I Have Played With:
- Lila Downs: Oscar winning Mexican songstress; Her voice has an incredible range!
- Claudia Acuna: I love her voice and her music! She is on Marsalis Music and working on a new record right now.
- Nouvelle Vague: very fun French band with beautiful singers. Think New Wave with a Bossa Nova flavor!
- Brendan James: such a great singer and songwriter. Now lives in LA and is signed to Decca Records
- Milly Beau: indie soul. Debut record “Milly Beau'” came out this year!
- Running Still: pop/rock. We were signed to East/West (Atlantic)
- Eric Wainaina: great “Kora” award winning singer from Kenya.
And quite a few more…
CD’s I’ve Released/ Been a Part Of:
I’ve been on many albums, most of which are from up and coming artists! I just really like being part of something new! Check my website for more info www.benzwerin.com
Describe The Way You Play Bass:
I’m old school. I have chops but choose not to show them. I’m all about sound, groove and lines in the studio I often find myself thinking: “What would Paul McCartney or James Jamerson do?” I was never really interested in the guys that can play really fast and all that. Loved Jaco Pastorius but never tried to play like him!
The most important thing for me is to have my own sound and for people to be able to recognize my playing right away. Whether I’m playing pop/rock, Latin music or jazz, I want to sound like me, bring my feel to the music.
What Made Me Decide to Play Bass:
Well, my dad, Mike Zwerin (writer and musician who played with Miles Davis, Eric Dolphy and many more) told me when I was 13 and wanted to play drums (I’d been playing piano for a little while already) that, “Every band needs a bass player.” How right he was! I think he just didn’t want me to play drums at home to be honest! (And didn’t want me to deal with carrying so much stuff around…)
Thanks to my dad, I grew up listening to so many different kinds of music… And as Duke Ellington said: “There are 2 kinds of music, good and bad”
I love Bob Marley (and all Reggae bass lines), love classic soul (Bill Withers, Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin…), classic rock (specially 60s rock like Hendrix, Zeppelin, Janis…), Jazz (Coltrane, Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Paul Chambers…).
I also love pop! From David Bowie to the Neptunes, Brazilian music (Caetano Veloso, Chico Buarque, Djavan, Joao Gilberto, Tom Jobim…), Latin music (Ruben Blades, Hector Lavoe…), African music (Oliver Mtukudzi, Salif Keita, Oumou Sangare…), Electronic music (Brazilian Girls, The Knife, Air, Goldfrapp…), Hip Hop (Run DMC, De La Soul, Jay Z, Snoop Dog…)
The bottom line is that great songs (great melodies, real lyrics) are what get me! Doesn’t matter the style… Of course a good groove is the first thing I feel too!
A 1966 black 4005 model Rickenbacker. Very rare bass and I love the low end it has! Ricks usually don’t have that… A 1973 Presicion Bass as well as a Thunderbird I got a few years ago from Gibson at a gig I did for them.
I have a few others but these are the ones I use the most!
My Amps and Other Gear:
I got an Ashdown head a few years back and love it!! I’m usually an Ampeg guy but I totally fell in love with Ashdown. Great vintage fat sound that’s very versatile!
I use a few pedals like a Boss Octaver, a Line 6 delay and an MXR distortion (called Bass DI +)
Best Bass Advice You’ve Ever Received:
Just be yourself and don’t get caught up in other people’s bullshit!
One Piece Of Advice For Other Bassists:
Make sure you sound like yourself! It’s great to study other players and lots of styles but don’t lose site of who you are and what you want to sound like. Oh, and remember your role as a bass player and lay the groove down!
Favorite Quote or Life Philosophy:
“The holes in your Swiss cheese are somebody else’s Swiss cheese”
Most Amazing Gig so Far:
Touring with Claudia Acuna was up there musically; I really love her singing!
But there was this gig I did a few years back with a Brazilian artist called Karina Zeviani. It was at a place called Babylon, in Cesme, Turkey. Such a beautiful place, right on the ocean! The stage was literally on the beach and we had such a great show! We then partied by the water and ended up naked in the ocean at 5AM with a bunch of great people! Quite unforgettable! 😉
David Bowie, Bjork, Radiohead, Tom Waits or Peter Gabriel! Of more recent artists: Alice Smith, Bon Iver or St Vincent.
Best NAMM Moment:
Only been once for a day so no stories there… I’m actually not much of a techie… I barely know what kind of strings I use…
Most Embarrassing Moment on Stage:
I once did a gig, a long time ago, where I had to tune my E string down to D during the intro of a song and I’d just gotten a new tuner… Of course I ended up a half step up and didn’t notice it… Thought the singer was off… Very embarrassing and pretty funny! Especially when we listened back to the show!
Favorite Tip to Share on Traveling With Your Bass:
I now always check my bass when traveling by plane… Don’t want to deal with trying to convince the airline people it’s okay for me to take it on with me… Was too much of a hassle!
I own a few different hard cases… I don’t travel with the Rick though… It’s too valuable!
In buses, vans or trains I always use a hard case too. There’s just no need to stress about anything happening to your instrument! There are usually enough other things to worry about…
What Would You Be Doing If You Weren’t A Musician:
I might be an acoustical engineer. I was actually a very good student and always more on the math and physics side… I’d be working with architects or building sound absorbing structures for urban areas.
What You Can Look Forward to From Me this Year:
- A lot more songwriting and producing! I’ve been writing songs like crazy the past couple of years. Collaborating with all the amazing singer/songwriters friends I’m blessed to have! And Producing is just something I love to do and am very good at. I love taking good music and making it the best it can be; it’s all about the artist and the songs.
- LIONZ’s first album! I think it’s going to be killing!
- Maybe with this interview, one of my “Dream gigs” will come true too 😉
Find Me Online: