Eric Drew Feldman, Bass Musician Magazine Q&A
Bass Musician Magazine Q&A with Bassist Eric Drew Feldman…
Eric Drew Feldman
Born In What City:
Los Angeles, California
Current Band(s) I Play With:
kNIFE & fORK, Black Francis, Ruby Howl
Former Bands I Have Played With:
Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band, Snakefinger’s Vestal Virgins, Pere Ubu, Pixies, PJ Harvey
Albums I have released/been a part of:
Projects of mine that I’ve contributed to as producer, engineer, and player of musical instruments:
- ‘Miserycord’ – kNIFE & fORK
- ‘The Higher You Get the Rarer the Vegetation’ – kNIFE & fORK
Albums that I have contributed to as a player:
- ‘Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller)’ – Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band
- ‘Doc at the Radar Station’ – Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band
- ‘Fuck Christmas’ – Fear (single)
- ‘History of the Blues’ – Snakefinger
- ‘Worlds in Collision’ – Pere Ubu
- ‘Trompe le Monde’ – Pixies
- ‘Is This Desire?’ – PJ Harvey
- ‘Dog in the Sand’ – Frank Black
- ‘Black Letter Days’ – Frank Black
- ‘White Chalk’ – PJ Harvey
Albums that I have produced and contributed to as a player:
- ‘Manual of Errors’ – Snakefinger’s Vestal Virgins
- ‘Faster Frightwig, Kill Kill’ – Frightwig
- ‘Night of Desirable Objects’ – Snakefinger’s Vestal Virgins’
- ‘Frank Black’ – Frank Black
- ‘Teenager of the Year’ – Frank Black
- ‘Weisenheimer’ – Custard
- ‘In a Bar, Under the Sea’ – dEUS
- ‘Jet’ – Katell Keineg
- ‘Jesus Hits Like the Atom Bomb’ – Tripping Daisy
- ‘We Have the Technology’ – Custard
- ‘Happy Man’ (single) – Sparklehorse
- ‘Grey Will Fade’ – Charlotte Hatherley
- ‘Together We’re Heavy’ – The Polyphonic Spree
- ‘The Deep Blue’ – Charlotte Hatherley
- ‘The Golem (How He Came Into the World)’ – Black Francis’
- ‘Nonstoperotik’ – Black Francis
- ‘Heaven Hides There Too’ – Ruby Howl
- ‘Heirloom Music’ – The Wronglers with Jimmie Dale Gilmore (producer only)
- ‘Holidaydream’ – The Polyphonic Spree
Describe The Way You Play Bass:
Ha! With grim determination; I react to what I hear. That is the primary reason of playing music with other people. ‘If you got ears, you gotta listen.’ – Don Van Vliet. Often, I don’t really care about which notes I play, some have probably noticed. I care about the notes between the notes, where they are placed, and how they make the music feel. Technique-wise, I usually use a medium/heavy plectrum, or I use the fleshy part of my thumb, which gives a big fat sound with little attack, which is just perfect some of the time.
What Made Me Decide to Play Bass:
In the prior mid-century elementary school days, one could get out of participating in some of the required curriculum if one would condescend to play in the school orchestra. I was always game for that. I spent a school year at the age of eleven schlepping around an upright bass. Interesting, but I wasn’t into it enough to pursue it back then any farther. And I did spend my time in early bands playing some guitar, bass, and keyboards. Nobody wanted to carry around keyboards, and I wasn’t all that competitive, and there was always another guitar slinger in the wings, so I played keys. When I became a member of The Magic Band, I was recruited to play bass on minimoog. For the new music that was created for the versions of the band that I was in, this was fine. It was very non-standard, often atonal and psychological in nature. For some of the older material that we would perform live, I wasn’t satisfied with what I could accomplish playing moog bass, as there were chords played in the old parts, and these were not possible on the monophonic mini. I started to pick up a bass and found I could play the original parts as composed by Don. I proposed to him that I try some of the older songs on bass. He agreed, and gave his general sage advice of how not to play. He liked angularity, and for instruments (not just bass) to be hit, struck, kicked (whatever) most viscerally (generally), with a lot of conviction. This appealed to me, and the approach has generally stuck with me to this day………uh, what was the question again?
Ludwig van Beethoven, Igor Stravinsky, Howlin’ Wolf, The Rolling Stones, Neil Young, Captain Beefheart, Howe Gelb, etc. etc. etc.
Favorite Musical Styles:
Everything and nothing.
An old beat-up 1966 Fender Jazz Bass, purchased in a pawnshop somewhere in North Carolina in the early 1980’s for $160, a lucky find even back then. My other favorite is an early ’70’s Gibson EBO. There are some others that seemed like a good idea at the time, such as a late ‘60’s Hofner violin bass and a Fender VI, but mostly these sit hanging from the wall, mocking me. But someday I will tame these beasts.
My Amps and Other Gear:
Ampeg SVT, that mostly sits in storage, and an early 60’s Fender Bassman (2×12 cabinet w/separate head); and something (usually) to help overdrive the tone a bit. I like distortion. I have been using an old bass pod, but it seems to have gone missing recently. There is an SWR ‘Interstellar Overdrive’ rack thing in my room that is a hell of a paperweight. It has way too many knobs and controls. But I think I will try to tackle that, since going out and buying a new bass pod seems redundant.
Best Bass Advice You Ever Received:
In 1977, while on a short east course tour with CB and the MB, the opening act turned out to be the truly amazing blues pianist, Sunnyland Slim. (If you don’t know who this is, you should Google™ him). He was quite an elderly gentleman at the time, and was touring with just a young drummer, who was also his tour manager. Don’s manager at the time, a Mr. Harry Duncan, suggested that I play bass with Mr. Slim one night. I was truly intimidated, as I was just entering my life-long love affair with the music of Howlin Wolf and Muddy Waters, and I felt so unworthy. Also, the only bass I was touring with then was a short-scale Dan Electro, which just seemed so inappropriate (I now realize how wrong I was, and how correct, for me, everything was that was happening). Anyway, at Slim’s sound-check, I think I played pretty horrendously, and Slim said after the second song or so, ‘Aaeerr-rric, you gotta play with the backbeat! You gotta play with the backbeat!,’ while slapping the back of his left hand with the palm of his right hand over and over again. And the light bulb above me lit up, ‘Oh, it’s a backbeat thing.’
One Piece Of Advice For Other Bassists:
Listen. Listen to the kick. Listen to the singer. Listen to everything. Listen. Reach for that which cannot be reached. And, check your tuning; as often as possible.
Favorite Quote or Life Philosophy:
‘Don’t look back. Something might be gaining on you.’ – Leroy ‘Satchel’ Page
Most Amazing Gig so Far:
Hmmmm…. I suppose that it would be the first show I ever played with Captain Beefheart and those Magic Guys. It was at an extinct, small jazz club in San Francisco that was called ‘Keystone Corner’. I was in the right place at the right time; downhill ever since.
I think I’ve already had several, so I can’t really say. If you’re still reading this, you would probably agree that I have been fortunate in this regard.
Most Embarrassing Moment on Stage:
I went on stage with Frank Black at a large festival somewhere in Australia in 1994. Festivals are where you rarely get a sound-check. We trotted triumphantly on stage to the warm welcome of tens of thousands of music fans. I put on the bass, song immediately starts, I can’t really hear a thing but loudness, but I know something is seriously wrong. I stare at my fingers on the fret board. They are in the right place, playing the right notes. Charles is somewhat in front of me, singing away, looking like he has a neck ache, occasionally casting darts in my direction. It finally occurs to me that the bass is WAY out of tune. I start checking my tuning. The road technician that tuned my bass that night was normally our front-of-house engineer, who was helping out with stage work, as everything was rushed. He didn’t know how to read a tuner, I guess (or he really disliked me) and had tuned every string a half-step sharp. Pretty hard to play around that when one plays a lot of open strings.
Favorite Tip to Share on Traveling With Your Bass:
Don’t go forgetting it on the luggage carousel at the airport, or in the trunk of the taxi that takes you to the hotel. And while at the hotel, never play the electrified bass while taking a bath.
What Would You Be Doing If You Weren’t A Musician:
I don’t know. Perhaps living in a cardboard box under a freeway. I could see myself not having music as a profession. But not ever playing music. It’s like wondering what I would be doing if I was a black rhinoceros.
The Question No One Ever Asks Me, But I Have Been Dying to Share:
No one ever asks how I stay looking so young after all these years. If they did ask, I would answer exercise and the right kind of food.
OK. OK. I’ll try to be serious about this. No one ever asks why I would do what it is that I do. There isn’t a lot of money in it, so far, And not a lot of glory. The answer is, it is fun. Recording in a studio is my favorite place to be. It is not, and shall not, be a cynical place, if I am there and have any say in it. And when I play a show that excites people, or participate in the making of a recording that stimulates, I believe that is a positive contribution to the human condition. At least, that’s the best that I can come up with to explain myself at this time.
What You Can Look Forward to From Me This Year:
I’ve just finished making a record with a Texas outfit called ‘The Polyphonic Spree’. It is called ‘Holidaydream’, and is a Christmas record for people that don’t particularly like Christmas records. I know that sounds like another idea in a long line of questionable ideas, but it is a very good listen. The Spree and I have already started a proper album that should be finished this fall.
My songwriting partner in kNIFE & fORK, Laurie Hall, and I have started work on another record, and I’m determined that this one shall not take so long to finish as the last. It should be done by the end of this year. And I’m itching to play some live shows with kNIFE & fORK, but the right opportunity has not yet been found.
And I’ve played a couple of short tours with Black Francis the last couple of years with just Charles on guitar, and me on piano or pump organ, or bass. This falls under the high order of fun, and I have to figure out how to trick him into thinking that this would be a good idea for us to do again.