Gotye Bassist Lucas Taranto by Kilian Duarte: Bass Musician Magazine October 2012
Lucas Taranto by Kilian Duarte: Bass Musician Magazine October 2012… Lucas Taranto: Holding the fort for the sensation that is Gotye.
Lucas Taranto may be the man with the coolest bass gig in the industry right now. Playing for a musically rich and eclectic group, pop record sales through the roof, sexy basses, and traveling all over the world, you could say life is not looking too shabby. TV appearances on SNL, a You Tube phenomenon single, and gigging everywhere from here to the Middle East, there’s a good chance you know what band he plays for…. Really.
Unless you have been living under a rock, or have made your home in a very comfy one-room cabin in Patagonia, you have probably heard of Gotye. Since the release of his 2011 album Making Mirrors (released on legendary Australian label Eleven), the Belgian/Australian Gotye and his band have been an international phenomenon the likes of which have not been seen by an Aussie band in years. The single “Somebody that I used to know”, has sold in excess of 6,000,000 copies internationally. An unheard of number anymore in the modern 2012 music industry, it has gone to number one in 18 countries. A feat that has come together after more than eight years of hard work, touring, and 3 albums.
In the fickle and shallow climate of the modern record business, Gotye and his band are a rare and refreshing breath of fresh air. Proof that sometimes taking a creative risk is exactly what people want to hear. Making Mirrors is a mix of pop sensibility and bizarre instrumentation, with themes ranging from the hardships of heartache, to the enamoration of a man and his Cotillion organ (get your mind out of the gutter, it’s a keyboard). Vocal ranges everywhere, fun noises, and a bass anchoring it all down, Lucas has his work cut out for him. You can hear him live playing his Beautiful Foderas® and covering a serious myriad of styles that requires a keen ear and an even keener sense of adaptability.
He was nice enough to answer these questions for us in a very professional and timely manner, something that can be so difficult in a band exploding at the seams with notoriety. As a journalist I cannot begin to tell you how nice that can be, and it is very much appreciated. We tried to get a small glimpse into the life of a hard working bassist who is seeing the benefits of years paying dues and climbing “the ladder”, here is what he had to say.
Lets start from the beginning shall we? When did you first start playing music, and when did you find out bass was for you?
My dad was a drummer in a wedding band and I loved going to his gigs. I would help him load in and beg to stay at the gigs with him. It seemed so wonderful and when the band started up it was like magic to me. Obviously my mother picked up on this and thought electronic organ lessons were a good idea. They weren’t. I would have been about nine years old. Shortly after, the movie “Back To The Future” changed my life. You know the scene where Marty McFly is back in 1955 and plays ‘Johnny B. Goode’ at the Enchantment Under The Sea Dance? Guitar was for me… or so I thought. I had classical guitar lessons but with a change of teacher I moved to learning jazz. The more music my teacher gave me to listen to, the more the bass jumped out at me. Like the first time I heard Lee Ritenour’s Rio Funk. I came back to my teacher asking, “What’s that other instrument? What’s it doing? What’s that sound?”. He told me to go buy a bass and I never looked back.
Who would you say, bass wise and in general, your inspirations are?
In the early days it was defiantly Marcus Miller, Duck Dunn and Willie Weeks that kept that bass in my hands every day. That quickly led to Jaco, who is a player I constantly re-visit for inspiration. The biggest inspirations on my playing though are Gary Willis and Pino Palladino. Two totally different players but also my two favorites.
Gary Willis has such a great approach and technique to the instrument. He has a great balance of musicality and feel. Very dynamic too.
Pino Palladino is just a bass monster. He’s so incredibly flexible between genre’s and what a pocket. I love listening to anything that he’s played on. He just seems to make it all work.
I must mention Larry Graham and Bootsy too. Bass wise they have been influential but more than that… their vibe is a real inspiration for me. They always talk about their love of making music and connecting, with the band and the audience. Every time I see Larry Graham play its like he’s just picked up the bass and is doing his first ever gig. That excitement and energy is something I hope to achieve every time I play.
Generally speaking though, my inspirations are the people closest to me. My family and my partner, Tulay. I think the support that I get from them has really kept me going. Them and food. Creating an amazing dish is just like conducting a band. To me the parallels are uncanny. When the bass really frustrates me (and sometimes it does…), some time in the kitchen and great food can reset my inspiration.
How did you land the gig with Gotye? What is it like being part of an unorthodox line-up like he has?
I’ve known Wally for years. We went to High School and were also in a band together. ‘Downstares’. Ha! Anyway, we kept in touch and I started playing on the early Gotye recordings. He tried a few different bands and setups and asked me to join him for the 2007 Gotye mini-orchestra tour. I was so happy to be a part of it. Five years later and we are about to head out on the road again.
The line up is awesome. It’s a lot of fun playing with new technology and trying to think outside the box in terms of re-creating sounds and feels. It really challenges everyone in the band to be innovative with their instruments. The stuff that can’t be re created has to be triggered so we all get to have a bit of fun with that stuff too. It also has broadened my musical scope. When we (the guys in the band) talk music I’m exposed to all these great new sounds and technologies.
How was the SNL experience? For those readers who would like to one day be there and say they have done it, what can they expect?
To be honest, it was awesome. The entire SNL team is so incredibly professional and really makes it a joyful experience. Everyone is really calm and are happy to help. The SNL band, cast and crew were really cool too. I got to hang out with bass legend James Genus and talk Fodera’s, all things New York and gigs. It is a long day and the performance was over before I knew it but the buzz of it was a real high for me. I’m getting the buzz back now just thinking about it. Oh, and I got to hug Kristen Wiig. Embarrassingly star struck.
When I interviewed Mark Evans of AC/DC (the original bassist), he said that life in a fast rising band is kind of a blur. How would you describe this past year in the life of Gotye and company?
It is a lot of fun and an amazing experience but it’s also a lot of travel in a short time. I can relate to that ‘blur’ effect. Gig, bus, sleep, wake up in a new city (or sometimes country!), eat, sound check, gig, bus, sleep etc etc etc. Sometimes on the road you totally forget where you’ve just come from. It sounds crazy but its true. Your perception of time does get a little fuzzy.
Luckily Wally chooses his company very carefully. Every person on the tour not only has great skills in what they do but they are also good vibed, positive people. We all get along and that does make it easier.
Making Mirrors has sounds and styles that range from pop, funk, indie, electronic, and everything in between. How do you go about learning the tunes/arranging your parts to fit all these styles?
A lot of rehearsing. Wally really knows his tunes inside and out. We all individually get our parts up to scratch first. For me that’s learning the part (which I sometimes transcribe note for note) and then getting the tone and timbre right. Sometimes that can take a bit of research. I look at different effect pedals and sometimes delve into the genre. Like when I had to learn “I Feel Better” all I did was transcribe and play along to James Jamerson tunes. When I was learning “The Only Thing I know” all I did was transcribe and play along to Cure tracks. Once I understood the genres better I could apply it to the relevant Gotye tune. It’s really opened my musical palette too. Now, It’s one thing to nail this at my desk in my little studio but things tend to sound different outside that room. The next step? Into the studio for full band rehearsals. We will then de-construct each song part by part with Wally. Is it the right sound/tone? Does it have the right feel, groove and intention? Will it work in the final mix? From there we all fine-tune and tweak our parts before the next full band rehearsal.
It’s great to be involved in a project that really takes care in what is presented to the listener. We all add our own flavor to the parts but all in context to the tune. For me, it really is a dream gig.
What has your gear setup been these days? How did you end up hooking up with the guys at Fodera?
The basses I use are all strung with Fodera Diamond Series Nickel wound .045-.130’s. I use my ’74 jazz bass, an old P-bass copy (that I fully customized), an Ernie Ball Music Man StingRay 5, a Jim Dyson Soul Bass and now, the FODERA. Wow, what a bass. I’ve been looking for a new bass and wanted something super high quality in tone but it still had to feel like a real bass. The team at Fodera really delivered. I’ve been lucky enough to be endorsed in Australia by Fodera Strings for the last couple of years. As soon as I got to New York I had to meet up with them. Jason gave me a tour of the factory, we got talking basses and the next thing I knew I was ordering one! Everyone is so fantastic and really loves what they do there. I’ve been a fan of Fodera for many years and am proud to now be part of the family. My new Fodera is incredible. It’s extremely malleable and perfect for the Gotye gig. It’s my main bass for this upcoming tour. Can’t wait!
I also use a vintage analogue bass keyboard called the ‘Novation Bass Station’ It’s becoming a bit too ‘road worn’ so I recently upgraded to the Novation UltraNova.
For my rig I’m currently using an Aguilar DB751 head with a DB410 and DB115. What a mighty rig. I used the DB 410 and DB115 for the first time on SNL and it was great. I love the tone and power, especially on outdoor stages. I tried the 810 and even two Aguilar GS410’s for a while but it just wasn’t the same for me without the 115.
I’ve also added a few pedals for the upcoming Gotye tour. I’m running a Boss TU-2 Tuner, Wren & Cuff Phat Phuk-B, Boss OC-2 Octave, and an Aguilar TLC Compressor. I still need to add a delay to that board too.
Your tour schedule has been taking you all over the world recently. Have you had any particular area of the world that has had a particular great, or surprising reaction to the band?
I must say that the crowds across America have been really great. People know every word of every song and there’s a real cross section of fans at every gig. With Wally being Belgian and that fact that he speaks Flemish the crowds there have been insane. People bring in signs and paintings and throw toys and gifts on stage. They just go ballistic.
I’m really looking forward to the upcoming tour though. We will be playing a few countries I’ve never been to. Poland, Korea, Dubai… I have no idea what to expect.
What does the future hold for you and the band?
At the moment it’s all about the upcoming tour. We are adding a heap of new tunes and production too. It’s a lot to work through so that’s the main focus for now.
What is some final advice you would like to give to bass players who would like to make a go at it professionally and want to get a shot at a living making music?
Practice lots and like Viv Savage of Spinal Tap says; “have a good time, all the time”. I’ve always thought that you not only need to be a good musician but you have to have a flexible and open vibe too. People like to work with positive people. As for making a living it’s like any business. You and your playing are the product and all the people you play with become your network. To make a living out of it you have to constantly develop and improve that product and keep expanding your network. Luckily it’s a lot of fun! Practice lots and do as much playing as you can. Oh, and remember to have a good time all the time.
Thanks a bunch!!!