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ARTISTS, PERSONS, STARS, COMETS AND ASTEROIDS…. by Igor Saavedra

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Igor-Saavedra-Bio-Apr2013When I was young, my Science teacher at school taught me that there’s no difference between a Star and a Person, that both are made exactly the same, that both share the same particles with no exception. Well, obviously he didn’t know anything about the music business, and mostly he didn’t know that in the future I would become a professional musician that would learn on the road that a “Person” and a “Star” are probably the most different concepts ever to imagine. I’m still recovering from the highly toxic stellar radiation emitted by another of the many music business activities that I paradoxically love to attend many times every year, and I think I have a couple more weeks to go so I can recover completely (smile).

The universe is fascinating, but is quite dangerous, as we all know. Stars everywhere…  growing and intending to swallow their neighbors till they violently collapse and die…  the already mentioned radiation… the comets and the asteroids that only know about speed, speed and more speed… well you know what I mean.

There are no ideal situations in life, and the trick is being able to see goodness, beauty and beneficial things everywhere, even where they are hard to find. Every music activity is always deeply related with business nowadays, so actually you see the brands cooperating with musicians and musicians cooperating with the brands. Brands make really enormous efforts to be able to show their products to their future customers. I really admire those courageous businessmen that try to sell musical instruments, amplifiers and every product related with music, considering that they will probably make more money selling fried potatoes, and I’m not kidding.

Getting into the musical business is an incredible adventure where those businessmen, who generally love music and have great respect for artists, have to deal with an enormous amount of variables. They are usually able to deal very effectively with all the commercial aspects, but at the same time they have to deal with a very special subject that is very abundant on this context, for whom they have to become experts in Astronomy and Quantum Physics, because many times they will have to make use of their enormous astronomic expertise and their skills to be able to “Deal with the Stars”.

What is “A Star” in this context and how do we define it?

In my humble opinion, “A Star” is a bipedal organism that is absolutely self-conscious, and at the same time “somehow knows” that the universe rotates around it, in fact most of the time the “Stars” don’t even realize that they see their very own existence this way, but always act accordingly to this precept.

Specifically, “Music Stars” “Somehow know” that they are really special; they think for example that you can’t compare them to a “normal” guy that works in a bank, or the guy at the gas station, or really anybody. They wouldn’t be able to “sacrifice” a little scratch on their fingers to help or collaborate with a friend that’s cutting some roses on the garden or fixing the roof at the house, because “that was not meant for them”, maybe an engineer, a doctor or a businessman can do that, but not them.

A Music Star talks “all the day” & “everyday” about music and usually (not always) knows nothing or little about the rest of the things in life, which by the way is the 99.9% of life.

In order to become a real artist, but I mean “A real artist” like Michelangelo for example, you can’t just focus on the very art you develop, you must be able to put it in “The Center” of everything you do, which is something absolutely different, and once you achieved placing it right there, acting as a point of gravity for all the activities of your life, then you have to nurture that Art, you have to feed it…  How? Well… with the 99.9% that surrounds it. And if you don’t care about that 99.9%, what happens then?

Several years ago I wrote a short reflection regarding this matter that I’ll intend to translate effectively for you.

If life would be just about music, what are we going to sing, play and compose about?

Regarding comets and asteroids…

“Music Stars”, especially when it comes to instrumental, contemporary jazz and fusion music where they can choose whether to play fast or not, usually have the desperate tendency to mutate from the state of “Stars” to the state of comets or asteroids, that means allowing high speeds to become the most relevant issue for them, so relevant and important that, once again, they don’t even realize how this craziness destroys any beauty on their musical speech. When they play like that, many times without even noticing it, they are literally collapsing every aesthetic statement that humanity has been building for millenniums.

Not everything has to be fast…

Getting deeper about the “Speed” issue, here comes a nice paradox. Because I’ve been dedicating a big part of my musical studies and developments to create and develop a bass-finger technique so efficient that “Unintentionally” allows the musician to play at incredible speeds, but the most important aspect being that it requires no effort. It’s very important to add this comment on this context, because the guys that complain all day about those musicians that only know about playing fast are usually very handicapped themselves on that specific matter, so they just don’t become credible for anybody. We all know those guys, well, that’s not my case…

With this comment I’m not even getting close to proposing that I’m a good player, so please don’t misunderstand me, speed is a quantifiable variable. I said one time that the Vectorial Synthesis Technique is a finger pizzicato technique that allows me to move across the fingerboard in a solo situation playing clean sixteen notes at speeds close to 300 bpm. The reason you don’t see me showing this “achievements” on YouTube is exactly the one for writing this article. And I repeat, that doesn’t make me better than any other fellow musician; my statement is heading to a complete different direction over here (smile). In fact, if I would not take control of this variable (as I think I’ve done already) the overuse of that ability would have had the power to transform me into the worst bass player on the planet.

So when to play fast then?

Easy, when the situation requires it… and that’s not very often really. You have mainly two forms to increase the amount of energy on a musical statement, “Speed and Dynamics”… and your common sense. Musical criteria and aesthetical notion will define when and how much. By the way, studying a little bit about Aesthetics Theory won’t hurt you at all (smile).

I admit that sometimes I get into speed craziness depending on the solo and the situation, but it’s enough with just a couple of seconds of that orgasmic explosion and that’s it… What’s the need to keep playing like that for an entire concert?  I can just say that when it comes to Aesthetics Theory, that’s a real good example for the concept of ugliness. I admit that sometimes I have had the temptation to respond to the zillion notes some colleagues throw on my face on many situations, but 90% of the times I avoid it, I just want to be a good artist, try that at home folks, is much healthier.

Having talked a little bit about comets and asteroids, let’s get back to the Stars!

I have to admit (and you can quote me on this), that “I feel absolutely uncomfortable even if I get a little bit close to a Star”, I start sweating and my muscles turn stiff immediately, it might be the radiation I think, but when they start talking, wooooww, that’s another thing, that’s the moment when my worst nightmares come true.

Generally Stars are absolute beings, to start “They are the bests”, and if for some miracle they think they’re too tired of being the best for so many years, they have the power to decide who the best is now. On my last tour I was introduced to the “10 best guitar players in the world”, “10 best bass players in the world”, and “10 best drummers in the world”, can that be possible?? If my little knowledge about logic doesn’t lie to me, this is an impossible statement…

Closing words…

There’s people in this world that enjoy behaving as “Stars”, they just love it and think that this is perfectly ok because they are so special that they just deserve so everything is fine and cool….

The only thing I can say regarding that, and is just my opinion, is that “Stars” are handicapped people that have lost any contact with reality, delirious beings; toxic organisms that feel they are bigger than the very art they dedicate their lives to, poisonous organisms that have the power to easily spread their venom, which consists on a radioactive toxin that make people start thinking and feeling as “Stars” too.

Keep at a healthy distance from them and focus on really important things… help a friend to cut the roses from his garden or fix his roof, and if the price for that is taking the risk of harming or twisting a finger, believe me it’s completely worth it because life is something you have to fully experiment with… all the goodness and the badness, so then you can have something to say and to express in your music! It’s not the first time I have said this, I know, but here I go again… “Before trying to be a great musician and a complete artist, start trying to become a complete and ethical person…”

See you on the next…

Bass Videos

Tour Touch Base (Bass) with Ian Allison

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Tour Touch Base (Bass) with Ian Allison

Ian Allison Bassist extreme

Most recently Ian has spent the last seven years touring nationally as part of Eric Hutchinson and The Believers, sharing stages with acts like Kelly Clarkson, Pentatonix, Rachel Platten, Matt Nathanson, Phillip Phillips, and Cory Wong playing venues such as Radio City Music Hall, The Staples Center and The Xcel Center in St. Paul, MN.

I had a chance to meet up with him at the Sellersville Theater in Eastern Pennsylvania to catch up on everything bass. Visit online at ianmartinallison.com/

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This Week’s Top 10 Basses on Instagram

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TOP 10 Basses of the week

Check out our top 10 favorite basses on Instagram this week…

Click to follow Bass Musician on Instagram @bassmusicianmag

FEATURED @officialspector @bqwbassguitar @brute_bass_guitars @phdbassguitars @ramabass.ok @tribe_guitars @woodguerilla_instruments @mikelullcustomguitars @jcrluthier @elegeecustom

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Interview With Audic Empire Bassist James Tobias

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Interview With Audic Empire Bassist James Tobias

Checking in with Bergantino Artist James Tobias

James Tobias, Bassist for psychedelic, Reggae-Rock titans Audic Empire shares his history as a musician and how he came to find Bergantino…

Interview by Holly Bergantino

James Tobias, a multi-talented musician and jack-of-all-trades shares his story of coming up as a musician in Texas, his journey with his band Audic Empire, and his approach to life and music. With a busy tour schedule each year, we were fortunate to catch up with him while he was out and about touring the US. 

Where were you born and raised?

I was born in Dallas, Texas and lived in the Dallas area most of my life with the exception of 1 year in Colorado. I moved to the Austin area at age 18. 

What makes the bass so special to you particularly, and how did you gravitate to it?

I honestly started playing bass because we needed a bass player and I was the one with access to a bass amp and bass. I played rhythm guitar and sang up until I met Ronnie, who I would later start “Audic Empire” with. He also played rhythm guitar and sang and we didn’t know any bass players, so we had to figure something out. I still write most of my songs on guitar, but I’ve grown to love playing the bass. 

How did you learn to play, James?

I took guitar lessons growing up and spent a lot of time just learning tabs or playing by ear and kicked around as a frontman in a handful of bands playing at the local coffee shops or rec centers. Once I transitioned to bass, I really just tried to apply what I knew about guitar and stumbled through it till it sounded right. I’m still learning every time I pick it up, honestly. 

You are also a songwriter, recording engineer, and a fantastic singer, did you get formal training for this? 

Thank you, that means a lot!  I had a couple of voice lessons when I was in my early teens, but didn’t really like the instructor. I did however take a few lessons recently through ACC that I enjoyed and think really helped my technique (Shout out to Adam Roberts!) I was not a naturally gifted singer, which is a nice way of saying I was pretty awful, but I just kept at it. 

As far as recording and producing, I just watched a lot of YouTube videos and asked people who know more than me when I had a question. Whenever I feel like I’m not progressing, I just pull up tracks from a couple of years ago, cringe, and feel better about where I’m at but I’ve got a long way to go. Fortunately, we’ve got some amazing producers I can pass everything over to once I get the songs as close to finalized as I can. 

Describe your playing style(s), tone, strengths and/or areas that can be improved on the bass.

I honestly don’t know what my style would be considered. We’ve got so many styles that we play and fuse together that I just try to do what works song by song.  I don’t have too many tricks in the bag and just keep it simple and focus on what’s going to sound good in the overall mix. I think my strength lies in thinking about the song as a whole and what each instrument is doing, so I can compliment everything else that’s going on. What could be improved is absolutely everything, but that’s the great thing about music (and kind of anything really). 

Who were your influencers in terms of other musicians earlier on or now that have made a difference and inspired you?

My dad exposed me to a lot of music early. I was playing a toy guitar while watching a VHS of Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble live at SXSW on repeat at 4 years old saying I wanted to “do that” when I grew up. I was the only kid in daycare that had his own CDs that weren’t kid’s songs. I was listening to Led Zeppelin, Hendrix, and The Doors when I could barely talk. I would make up songs and sing them into my Panasonic slimline tape recorder and take it to my preschool to show my friends. As I got older went through a bunch of music phases. Metal, grunge, rock, punk, hip hop, reggae, ska, etc. Whatever I heard that I connected to I’d dive in and learn as much as I could about it. I was always in bands and I think I kept picking up different styles along the way and kept combining my different elements and I think that’s evident in Audic’s diverse sound. 

Tell me about Audic Empire and your new release Take Over! Can you share some of the highlights you and the band are most proud of?

Takeover was an interesting one. I basically built that song on keyboard and drum loops and wrote and tracked all my vocals in one long session in my bedroom studio kind of in a stream-of-consciousness type of approach. I kind of thought nothing would come of it and I’d toss it out, but we slowly went back and tracked over everything with instruments and made it our own sound. I got it as far as I could with production and handed it off to Chad Wrong to work his magic and really bring it to life. Once I got Snow Owl Media involved and we started brainstorming about a music video, it quickly turned into a considerably larger production than anything we’ve done before and it was such a cool experience. I’m really excited about the final product, especially considering I initially thought it was a throwaway track.

Describe the music style of Audic Empire for us. 

It’s all over the place… we advertise it as “blues, rock, reggae.” Blues because of our lead guitarist, Travis Brown’s playing style, rock because I think at the heart we’re a rock band, and reggae because we flavor everything with a little (or a lot) of reggae or ska. 

How did you find Bergantino Audio Systems?

Well, my Ampeg SVT7 caught fire at a show… We were playing Stubbs in Austin and everyone kept saying they smelled something burning, and I looked back in time to see my head, perched on top of its 8×10 cab, begin billowing smoke. We had a tour coming up, so I started researching and pricing everything to try and find a new amp. I was also fronting a metal band at the time, and my bass player’s dad was a big-time country bass player and said he had this really high-end bass amp just sitting in a closet he’d sell me. I was apprehensive since I really didn’t know much about it and “just a little 4×10” probably wasn’t going to cut it compared to my previous setup. He said I could come over and give it a test drive, but he said he knew I was going to buy it. He was right. I immediately fell in love. I couldn’t believe the power it put out compared to this heavy head and cumbersome cab I had been breaking my back hauling all over the country and up countless staircases.  

Tell us about your experience with the forte D amp and the AE 410 Speaker cabinet. 

It’s been a game-changer in every sense. It’s lightweight and compact. Amazing tone. And LOUD. It’s just a fantastic amp. Not to mention the customer service being top-notch! You’ll be hard-pressed to find another product that, if you have an issue, you can get in touch with the owner, himself. How cool is that? 

Tell us about some of your favorite basses.

I was always broke and usually working part-time delivering pizzas, so I just played what I could get my hands on. I went through a few pawn shop basses, swapped in new pickups, and fought with the action on them constantly. I played them through an Ampeg be115 combo amp. All the electronics in it had fried at some point, so I gutted it out and turned it into a cab that I powered with a rusted-up little head I bought off someone for a hundred bucks. My gear was often DIY’d and held together by electrical tape and usually had a few coats of spray paint to attempt to hide the wear and tear. I never really fell in love with any piece of gear I had till I had a supporter of our band give me an Ibanez Premium Series SDGR. I absolutely love that bass and still travel with it. I’ve since gotten another Ibanez Premium Series, but went with the 5-string BTB.  It’s a fantastic-sounding bass, my only complaint is it’s pretty heavy. 

Love your new video Take Over! Let us know what you’re currently working on (studio, tour, side projects, etc.)

Thank you!! We’ve got a LOT of stuff we’re working on right now actually. Having 2 writers in the band means we never have a shortage of material. It’s more about getting everything tracked and ready for release and all that goes into that. We just got through filming videos for 2 new unreleased tracks with Snow Owl Media, who did the videos for both Love Hate and Pain and Takeover. Both of these songs have surprise features which I’m really excited about since these will be the first singles since our last album we have other artists on. We’ve also got a lot of shows coming up and I’ve also just launched my solo project as well. The debut single, “Raisin’ Hell” is available now everywhere. You can go here to find all the links distrokid.com/hyperfollow/jamestobias/raisin-hell

What else do you do besides music?

For work, I own a handyman service here in Austin doing a lot of drywall, painting, etc. I have a lot of hobbies and side hustles as well. I make custom guitar straps and other leather work. I do a lot of artwork and have done most of our merch designs and a lot of our cover art. I’m really into (and borderline obsessed) with health, fitness, and sober living.  I have a hard time sitting still, but fortunately, there’s always a lot to do when you’re self-employed and running a band!

Follow James Tobias:

jamestobiasmusic.com
Facebook.com/james.tobias1
Instagram.com/ru4badfish2
TikTok.com/@jamestobiasmusic
audicempire.com 

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Bass CDs

New Album: Avery Sharpe, I Am My Neighbors Keeper

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A new recording will be released on JKNM Records by internationally renowned bassist/composer Avery Sharpe, “I Am My Neighbors Keeper”

Avery Sharpe and his Double Quartet to release, I Am My Neighbors Keeper

A new recording will be released on JKNM Records by internationally renowned bassist/composer Avery Sharpe, “I Am My Neighbors Keeper” is scheduled for release in June 2024.

Sharpe has composed a new work that highlights our commitment to one another. Avery initiated the project as a response to the political and racial division that has grown over the past seven years in the country. “The U.S political climate has drastically changed in the past 40-plus years, especially during the last seven of those years. In this age of greed, which Sharpe refers to as “IGM,” I Got Mine, basic human compassion has been eroded. Racial, economic and social strides are being turned back.

“We have food insecurity, the unhoused, pandemics, school shootings, domestic violence, and an opioid problem, just to name some. There is a need to remind people that each of us is here on this planet for a very short period of time. It doesn’t matter if one has a religious approach or a secular approach, it all comes down to concern and compassion for each other. Through these compositions and recordings, Avery’s mission as an artist is to remind us that we all are interconnected and that ‘We Are Our Neighbor’s Keeper.’ When we help to uplift one, we uplift everyone,” Sharpe said.

Each movement in the piece describes the values we should strive for to help one another for this multi-media (video slide show during performance) and multi-discipline performance.

Many of Sharpe’s projects and recordings have been about “standing on the shoulders of ancestors, heroes and sheroes.” Among his recordings and projects, include “Running Man” (celebrating the athlete Jesse Owens), “Ain’t I A Woman” (about Sojourner Truth), and his most recent project “400: An African American Musical Portrait” (marking the 400 years from 1619 to 2019).

Avery Sharpe has recorded and performed with many jazz greats from Dizzy Gillespie to Yusef Lateef. He had an illustrious run of 20 plus years with the legendary Jazz pianist McCoy Tyner, of which he recorded more than 25 records with Mr. Tyner and performed countless worldwide concerts.

Visit online at averysharpe.com/

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Bass Videos

New Gear: Spector Woodstock Custom Collection Volume II

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New Gear: Spector Woodstock Custom Collection Volume II

Spector Launches Woodstock Custom Collection Volume II…

Spector Musical Instruments expands their celebrated Woodstock Custom Collection with the Volume II series – a breathtaking series of 12 handcrafted, one-of-a-kind bass guitars, each one masterfully designed by members of the Spector team. Crafted in the Spector USA Custom Shop in Woodstock, New York, these works of art go beyond musical instruments and expand the boundaries of Spector Bass design.

Spector’s iconic design lays the foundation for the Volume II collection. Each bass showcases a unique vision, including the selection of tonewoods, electronics, captivating finishes, and intricate design details. The collection highlights Spector’s commitment to craftsmanship and artistry and the individual people and stories that make up the team.

“The Woodstock Custom Collection was such a huge success, and we had so much fun with it that we couldn’t wait to do it again,” said John Stippell, Director – Korg Bass Division. “With Volume II, we’re expanding on everything we learned from the first collection, as well as pushing our design and Custom Shop team even further. These basses are a testament to the inspiring talent, creativity, and skill of every person on the Spector team. I’m excited for all of these basses and love how they tell the unique stories of all involved.”

Visit online at spectorbass.com/

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