Billy Sheehan, Hard Work and All Play by Steve Gregory: Bass Musician Magazine May 2013…
It is inevitable that some musicians will be tempted to search for a secret path to instant success. In an on-demand world that offers a plethora of resources that provide instant information, many musicians may feel that there is a hidden, get-great-now scheme hiding just around the corner. If one is lured to the road that promises immediate excellence they will find a course tread by many before them: find a great player, learn their flashiest and fastest licks, buy a truckload of the most trendy gear and voilà! Fame, fortune, and celebrity are unavoidable.
If we follow that logic, the only thing better would be to have the opportunity to speak directly to a bass master. Perhaps someone who has played with countless greats, has a building full of industry accolades, can play anything they want on their instrument, and has developed an amazing sound that is unique to them. This person would most certainly have the formula to rapid success.
Billy Sheehan is a prime candidate – he has played with the biggest and best stars, can awe audiences with blazing runs up and down the fingerboard, solos with mind-blowing techniques, has a unique sound that blends clean tone with distortion, and has been recognized in the music industry more times that can be counted. So, in this Bass Musician Magazine interview with Billy Sheehan, we proudly present his personal blueprint to becoming great:
- Work hard.
- Practice often.
- Play with others as much as you possibly can.
- Learn songs.
- Learn how to sing.
- Repeat these steps continuously during a career that is over four decades long.
Billy Sheehan will be the first to tell you that there is no magic to success other than working hard at a craft you love. His accomplishments are clearly the result of his determined and passionate pursuit of bass excellence throughout his amazing career.
Billy grew up in Buffalo, NY, where he spent his first playing years in a number of bands, including Opus One, which featured a horn section and played music in the style of groups like Chicago and Earth, Wind, and Fire. After these formative years, Billy’s next band was Talas, a hard working rock outfit that would quickly become hugely popular throughout the Northeast U.S. and Canada. Talas shows were notable for their driving rock sound, high energy, and a never before heard style of bass solo. These solos, which Billy describes as being initiated from a need to fill time, quickly became a highlight of live shows. Combining fast licks, a distorted bass tone, two-handed tapping, and shimmering harmonics, Billy’s solos drew attention from the ever increasing number of Talas fans as well as bass players, who would marvel Billy’s abilities. Two excellent examples of these solos, “NV4 3345” and “7718 (3A17)”, are captured on the recording, “Billy Sheehan – the Talas years”.
Talas came to the national stage during a tour that featured them as an opening band for Van Halen. This tour brought Sheehan’s aggressive bass style to the attention of new fans and caught the ear of Van Halen front man David Lee Roth. After leaving Van Halen, Roth formed his own band by recruiting Billy, guitarist Steve Vai, and drummer Greg Bissonnette. This musical powerhouse released two albums, “Eat ‘Em And Smile” and “Skyscraper”, the former featuring Sheehan’s composition “Shy Boy”. Both albums brought critical acclaim and achieved platinum status.
After the dissolution of the David Lee Roth band, Billy set out to form his own project, Mr. Big. The group released their debut album and delighted audiences with electrifying live shows. Their second album, “Lean Into It”, featured what is often cited as the group’s breakthrough hit, “To Be With You”. This track skyrocketed up the charts and took the group to celebrity status. Two more studio albums and a number of live recordings followed. After the group’s fourth album “Hey Man”, guitarist Paul Gilbert left the group. Ritchie Kotzen filled the guitar chair for two more albums, “Get Over It” and “Actual Size”.
During the same time of the Mr. Big guitar chair transition, Billy challenged himself again, forming the group Niacin with Hammond B3 player John Novello and drummer Dennis Chambers. The group released their self-titled first album in 1997, which featured the unique combination of Sheehan’s aggressive, distorted sound, Novello’s grinding B3 tone, and Chamber’s creative drumming. The trio refused to be limited to one style, which allowed their music to offer tastes of rock, jazz, blues, and funk. The group’s unique sound brought notice from fans and critics alike and would lead Niacin to release a total of six records from 1997 – 2005.
Billy driving work ethic has also led him to release three solo albums – “Compression”, “Cosmic Troubadour”, and “Holy Cow”. His solo efforts showcase Billy’s songwriting and feature him on multiple instruments, including voice. When not working on his own material, Sheehan has been driven to record for a number of great musicians, release several instructional DVDs, and teach seminars and clinics throughout the world.
This interview caught up with Billy after year in which he performed a reunion show with Talas in front of a huge outpouring of fans, released a new album, “What If…” with the original Mr. Big lineup, and returned to the studio with Niacin to release “Krush”. It was also a good day to reflect on a career that spanned over four decades and has been marked with relentless hard work, as Billy was celebrating his 60th birthday.
Let’s start by talking about the new Niacin album, “Krush”. This is the first Niacin album in several years.
In the interim, the reason we weren’t doing any other records was that we were all so busy with other things. Dennis was on tour with Carlos Santana, I did a Mr. Big reunion and record, and a bunch of other stuff, so there was just no time to get together. When we finally did get the time, everyone was in the state of having played a lot of stuff in the interim with a large group of people, so we all brought a lot of new things to the mix. We all grow as players – I know that I do…I try! I’m always learning, spending a lot of time on bass and learning new stuff, just trying to expand my horizons. We all brought a lot of new stuff to the table and that seemed to work out well. Things fell together easily, which is always a good sign! When it’s a big struggle and things aren’t working, where you have to shift this and shimmy that to get things to fit, it generally leads to a record that isn’t as cohesive. This thing fell together easily, right into place. As a result, we’re very pleased with how it came out.
On this record, the group is once again exploring many styles and refusing to be hemmed in to one label.
Exactly! We don’t have a lot of preconceived notions about how things are supposed to be, which is good! We allow nature to take it’s course and use the fact that the bass player plays one type of music mostly, and the drummer plays another type of music mostly, and the B3 player plays another type of music, so bringing them together really does bring three elements in. When we got together, we just kind of got lucky that it works so well. The album becomes somewhat varied in it’s styles as it leans one way or the other. Some songs could almost be heavy rock and some could be almost jazz, and every point in between. So, I like to think it bounces between those elements rather than sticking along a line.
Back in the day it was all about record companies. The record company would always be complaining that you had to play one kind of style, because their marketing department had to be able to market it to your target audience. I thought that was kind of constricting, because I never thought of myself as a target audience…I’d be a moving target! As a fan, I was into stuff all over the map, so the bands that I participate in, I try to bring a little of that in.
With Niacin we can pull from many different sources of inspiration without having to paint ourselves into a corner. Fortunately, Dennis is a supreme master at so many approaches to drumming. As a bass player, the drummer is the one we lock into and Dennis is a supreme pleasure to play with. I always say to people that he’s the greatest! So, all together we bring a varied palette of colors and somehow we manage to get a portrait out of it at the end.
You mentioned locking in with Dennis, let’s talk about locking in with John. A lot of classic B3 trios actually took the bass player away.
Exactly, they played it with their feet.
In the Niacin setting, you and John are forced to have share the low frequency space.
Yeah, I kind of like that. It’s a challenge because some of the notes on the B3 are really low, which is a catastrophe in the making, sonically! We orchestrate out and divide up things up front. When we play it’s pretty improvisational, but we orchestrate in a way that are pre-set to know I’m going to stay out of this frequency range while he’s there; he stays out of mine when I’m there. Eventually, after playing together for so long it becomes an instinctive thing where we can easily give each other room when need be.
I come from a time when the B3 player was a more important element in a band than a guitar player. The Young Rascals, the Spencer Davis Group, so many bands back in the 60’s were all about the B3, much more than guitar. Of course I love guitar and a transition has been made, but it’s interesting to note that I can remember when the B3 was the dominant instrument in pop. It was an important thing at one time, so to play with B3, minus guitar, is kind of an interesting connection. We’ve managed to find a spot for it!
Do you think that the “Billy Sheehan” sound, mixing clean and distorted tones, is part of what works, when playing with John?
Yeah – I do like the fact that the B3 has a grind to it, as well. For me, I love that overdriven, harmonic content that you get out of a B3. I love it so much that I do that with my bass. A super clean tone just doesn’t happen to be my taste. For others it’s fantastic, it’s great, it’s cool. I’ve always liked bass with a wet tone like the grind that Chris Squire has, that little extra edge. I went further and made it a little bit more distorted than that. When I play with a B3, which has a grind to it as well, it’s kind of like the link I get when I play with a guitar player who’s playing through a Marshall. That sonic connection is made from instruments that are generating that much harmonic content by the distortion. All of those things kind of melt together – it could be catastrophe, but in this case we got lucky and we mix together very nicely. Sonically, it creates a nice wall of sound without obscuring what’s actually going on.
I’d say that’s a hallmark of Niacin: your sounds mesh together and don’t clash.
It’s a sonic thing and an artistic thing as well. I hear stuff from people that aren’t as experienced in recording and it’s so easy to wipe out all kinds of information with one instrument dominating. All of the work that went into all of those other instruments is masked and you can’t even hear them. I’ve had guys that I’ve played with myself, where we’ll do the bass and drums and maybe scratch guitar and then suddenly they’ve added all of this stuff and the bass has just disappeared completely. It is quite an attitude to be able to mix stuff and build stuff as a writer so that nothing is obscuring anything else. So, we keep that in mind when we’re writing. We put things together that will work within our frequency ranges.
Going back to 2012, you reunited with Talas – what was that experience like?
It was heartwarming at the very least; it was incredible. There were many reasons that we wanted to do this. All of us are all old friends and we were all at a point where we could all show up. I got to see people that I haven’t seen for over 20 years and hang out with them. During the show, to actually play again with the guys in Talas, was just absolute joy. We ended up playing for 14- or 15, 000 people that showed up. It was just an incredible day and I’ll never forget it. I just heard from the guitar player and the drummer – we are talking about doing it again next year, which will be our 40-year anniversary as Talas. When, I’m not sure, but we may do it again.
Also in 2012, you released the Mr. Big album, “What If…”.
It was the best-reviewed record that I’ve ever put out. I was very, very pleased and thankful for that. I believe we put the record together in a way that it was on purpose. We purposefully got in a room together to write as a band, as opposed to everybody going home, figuring their stuff out, and then phoning it in. That the record was reviewed so positively as a result of us going into a room and working as a real band said a lot to me and gave me a lot of hope for the future. Doing things the right way really does pay off. Even if it wouldn’t had paid off in that respect, as far as response to the record, I would still do it that way, because it really is the most enjoyable way to make a record. The push-pull, coming up with ideas, and fine-tuning stuff, that’s my favorite thing.
Do you find that you write your parts differently when writing together in one room, as a band?
Absolutely! When you have the interaction of people around you, you’re responding to them in the same time, in the same moment. Whereas, when you’re playing with tracks, you’re laying it down and you get a chance to inspect it – you’re probably more careful, more accurate. In some ways it’s better, because you can fine-tune it, but better isn’t always better! Sometimes fine-tuned perfection doesn’t make better music. Sometimes it is the heat of the moment and jumping in there – that’s why first takes are always so magical. Then you spend the rest of the day with 20, 30, 40 more takes and end up going back to the first one again, because that is the one that worked! We have a little saying, amongst musicians I know that, “If you think, you stink!” If you’re thinking it through and pushing logic and reason through something, that’s not the way to play. There shouldn’t be any of that going on at all while you’re actually performing. For some things, that’s necessary. Sometimes you have to really get in there with some difficult things, but if you’ve rehearsed it enough you can get it to be second nature. I generally like to learn all of the stuff that I’m going to record really well and then in the studio it flies really quickly. You can just toss it down instinctively, rather than having to piece through it. You always get better art that way, I think.
“If you’re thinking, you’re stinking” is a great phrase!
Absolutely! I see players when they’re thinking and they lose me! I’m in the audience to watch the band and you see them start thinking and you almost automatically lose your connection with them. It’s like talking to someone, when they say something to you and as you’re responding back to them, they’re not listening to you, they’re thinking about what they’re going to say next. Sometimes I’ll stop and go, “What did I just say?” and they say, “Oh, I was thinking about something else!” I speak and then you speak and we listen and that’s communication! With a band or musician on stage and an audience, it’s the same thing. I’m not thinking about the next thing that I’m going to say, I’m speaking from the heart. It’s an important thing for a musician to do, to really speak from the heart and not the teleprompter and not the automatic response. If you’re playing and you think, “OK, I’m going to go up a little high now….”, oh man, you’re doomed! It should really just be a natural instinct. You get that, in my humble opinion, from just putting in your time and dues and working it out.
One thing that I heard you say recently was that you’re practicing quite a bit and, perhaps surprisingly for someone who has played for several decades, you were focusing on your technique.
It is true that I’m my toughest critic. I can play something and someone can hear it and say, “Hey – cool!” and I go, “No, no, no…I missed three notes in it and I gotta make sure I get them now!” A lot of times people hear you, but they don’t know what you know. I know when I blow it or when I have a weak spot and I think that comes from playing in a club and making a mistake and covering it up. Or being able to cover for yourself when you can’t hear what you’re playing or some catastrophe happens on stage…you learn how to deal with a lot of stuff. I can usually pull off something and make it work, but under my eyes and my criticism, it’s not good enough and I want to get better. There is a time for thinking: sometimes you sit back and observe and qualify what you’re doing and figure it out. I spend unlimited amount of hours fine tuning and improving. Improving doesn’t necessarily mean playing faster by any means, sometimes it means doing stuff super slowly and in time and making sure the length of the notes are right. Then, when you get up on stage, that’s gone, I just play.
I often make the point to other players when I do my seminars and clinics: if you’re practicing and practicing and practicing: is your playing getting any better? No, I didn’t think so. You’re practicing the wrong thing! You have to discover what it is for you that makes your playing better. Some guys, running scales all day long doesn’t change their playing at all, but for some guys it might help their playing! There’s not one particular thing that you can do that’s going to improve your playing, it’s individual. Some things are pretty universal – playing in time and playing in tune, of course you have to get those things down. But generally, for your artistic approach to the instrument you have to figure out what it is for your playing that’s going to make it work. For me, all of the physicality and mechanics of how my hands move and where they move, I really try to fine tune that, so when I’m playing my hands will do anything that I need them to do. I can just kind of glance at them in one direction and bang, they’re on it! My hands, I try to get them strong and accurate so that they can do any combination of any notes, anywhere, anyhow. When it comes time to actually play music, my hands won’t be the thing holding me back; it will be my artistic creativity. I would rather that be the weakest link that some physical thing.
So, you try to have a toolset at your disposal to communicate your ideas without pause?
Exactly right. To have a great set of well polished tools that all work perfectly. A screwdriver of every size and a socket wrench of every size so that no matter what presents itself, you have the things to do it. Now, what you do with it, that depends on your craftsmanship and that’s another story. But to have a full toolkit and have it ready to go is the important thing for me.
Then sometimes, I don’t do that – I don’t work on mechanics at all. I work only on emotional content and musical ideas. It’s an amazing adventure that never stops and it’s unlimited for everybody. No matter how long you’ve been at it, there’s still so much more to go and so much more to learn. I love that!
Speaking of technique, something you have become known for is speed, distortion, and harmonics. However, a big thing you harp upon in clinics is actually groove and time – how do you feel about people focusing only on the flashy side?
It’s inevitable that someone’s going to see a DVD and clip the solo section out of it and post it to YouTube. Then you get the haters on YouTube who say, “ALL he ever does, ALL the time, is ONLY solo. “ I see it and I weep for the future to think that anyone’s life or work is like taking a toothpick sliver out of the redwood and judging by that. It’s sad, because they’re missing out on a lot, because they’re probably not just doing it with me, they’re doing it with all of life. It’s sad to see.
I love playing fast, crazy stuff that’s entertaining and enjoyable. That came from playing in clubs where we were playing three or four sets a night. It’s an entertainment and enjoyment factor on my part and certainly also for the audience’s part. But the other side of the coin was that, in that era, you had to fill up the dance floor. If the dance floor emptied out you’d get the look from the club owner that said, “If they’re not dancing, they’re not drinking, and I’m not making money so get them back out there!” We always had to do what we had to do to get the dance floor full. We’d do our flashy, wild stuff, but we’d always keep it in the context of the song and the music. Even the solo things, I would try to turn them into a musical piece that was entertaining to people that weren’t into a bass solo by any means. So you’re correct – the song, the groove was always there and always came first, but unfortunately people tend to concentrate on things that aren’t the main thing. People say, “Yeah, you do all of these solos in Mr. Big” and I go, “What about ‘To Be With You?’” It was #1 and there was no bass solo on that! Or “Wild World” or “Just Take My Heart”…I love those songs and I love playing that. Or playing with Steve Vai and doing “For the Love of God” where I’m playing E notes for a long time on the open E string. But it’s out of control what people post. There’s no control on it and that’s a good thing, but the other side of the coin is that sometimes people don’t know what they’re talking about. I just hope that their powers of observation are better in other areas of life, because it would be a sad state of affairs to live like that.
On the good side of flash, you’ve been able to maintain physical health that has allowed you to play fast, when needed. To what do you attribute your longevity and health?
That’s a good point, because there is a strength factor with bass that’s not there with other instruments. In Mr. Big, at the end of the show, usually we switch instruments and on each tour, a different guy gets a different instrument. Our drummer came out and played bass on one of the tours. The first night we did it, we were about four measures into the song and I looked over and he was in agony, because he didn’t know how hard it was to play the bass! Our drummer is a tall guy, a muscular guy that hits stuff all night long, but he was brought to his knees trying to play! It’s a special kind of strength that requires self-discipline and a tolerance for pain. It hurts to play bass sometimes; sometimes, no pain, no gain. Probably not a wise way for everyone to approach it that way, but I do physically play hard and it tears up my arms, my hands, my forearms, my shoulders, my back…it does do a number on me. But, I’m generally pretty healthy a person. I don’t do any heavy drinking and I’m a complete non-drugger. I haven’t even had an aspirin since 1971, so that helps a lot. I’m fortunate to be in the physical shape where I don’t take anything. That’s a factor, because to do it this long, I know a lot of guys who have run into a difficultly. I feel like I’m 16 when I’m playing bass. I really have that physical and mental approach to it. When I first started really playing, I was about 16 or 17 and that’s still kind of how I feel. So I think that maybe my body, just by power of suggestion, is kind of sticking around that time period. If that ever changes, it will be like the portrait of Dorian Grey and I’ll crackle and fall apart!
I’ve mentioned your clinics, which are a frequent part of your schedule. Is education a big part of what like to do?
Absolutely! I love my fellow musicians and I wish them as much or more success than I’ve had. Not just career-wise, but the success you have when you conquer your instrument. You get to a point when you have a great relationship with your instrument and it’s part of your life. I see that sometimes people are heading toward the wrong things, because we don’t have the same scene where when I was young. At 16, you got a fake ID and you’re in a bar playing 4 or 5 nights a week and you’re doing that for decades. You’re playing a zillion cover tunes, you’re learning the best of the best hits, you’re learning how to put a verse and a chorus together, and you become a better writer because of it. All of these things aren’t at the disposal of a lot of the kids these days, so I like to try to give them some advice that I think will head them in the right direction. Often, it’s the most common things I tell them: perform live, as much as you can, everywhere. I also tell them to just play songs, learn songs. Sit with the radio and just play along with anything that comes up. Back in the mid-60’s, the AM radio played everything. I would just put it on and play with anything and everything. Then I skipped to records and played whole records. The whole Sgt. Pepper’s front to back, Band of Gypsys front to back, every song, all of that stuff. It is a great help to learn songs and learn how to play stuff. A lot of young players get together and want to play and you say, “OK, what songs do you know?” “Umm…none, really”. “Well, any Beatles, any Stones, any Hendrix, any Who, any Zepplin…anything?” “No…” “Oh, boy, this is going to be rocky. “ You don’t have the common threads to communicate with other players – you need songs! At Fantasy Camp the other day, Sammy Hagar was there and someone in the audience suggested that I play with him. So I asked Sam, “What do you know?” “Every song off the first Montrose album, I know them all, they’re ready to go” Well, I haven’t played them in a decades, but I’m ready to go. “Wanna play Space Station #5?” It was a moment for me, because I love that song, I love that record, and Sammy sang it perfectly! I knew the songs and we probably could have sat there and gone through easily 10, 20 songs that we both know. The guys in Talas could get together do a whole night without a rehearsal; we just know a million songs.
I try to emphasize that to players – learn some songs! And then, learn to sing! I hear guys say, “I gotta learn scales, I gotta get my gear, I gotta get my pedal board” – their priorities are completely wrong! Hopefully, when I do give them my homespun philosophy, it will help to secure them into an area that will be much more beneficial for them and really will make them a better player. All of the other players that I know and hang out with, we all have the same message, because I think it’s universal. It holds true with every player – know a bunch of songs.
When I do the clinics I do enjoy trying to help my fellow player in any way I can. I did a clinic in Siberia, where I think they were used to this big wall between the performer and the audience and I purposefully tore it right down. I would walk out in the crowd and let them come up on stage and play my bass when I’d show them stuff. So they were just so pleased that I was one of them and they were me…it was a really great experience.
One thing that I’ve heard you say is that it is important to steal from the greats. What would you tell players that they should steal from you?
Everything! Everything that’s not nailed down, go ahead, take it! It’s a songwriting maxim, but it holds true with many things, “Good writers write and great writers steal”. It’s very true. The ability to take something from an unexpected source and turn it into your own thing is really what can make an incredible difference in your playing. I remember playing some things from Bach, Brandenburg Concertos, or some Well Tempered Clavier pieces and I’d be fitting them into my solos. People would say, “How did you ever come up with that?” I’m just playing Bach, but on stage and loud and distorted in a rock club, they had never heard anything like that before.
So, take from the greats. It’s what I do and it’s what I did. I learned great Richie Blackmore licks – he had an unusual away of approaching things and I had to figure it out on bass. Oscar Peterson stuff – the way he phrased notes together, I’d take some stuff from that. Paco de Lucia – fingerpicking. Sax – Jaco took a lot of sax stuff, his phrasing on bass is very sax-like. It all comes from somewhere. Very rare is the guy that actually makes up stuff on his own. But it is very common for people to have respect for different things and bring them into something new. The Beatles were basically playing a lot like the Everly Brothers and a lot like Motown. Then they brought elements of them together that no one expected to come out of a British band.
Listen to great stuff and great players, especially stuff out of the range of what you’re going for. Heavy metal and hard rock is generally what I do, but I listen to some Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Bobby Darin, Mel Torme…the great singers. Also, great classical stuff, not only the rhythmic stuff like Back and Beethoven, but a lot of Debussy and Ravel and unusual artists that are based more on emotion than time. All those things lead up to a unifying whole in the end. It all comes together and becomes a style, an identifiable thing. Everybody’s got it in them, it’s just a matter of digging deep and finding it.
Now that the Niacin record has been released, what’s coming up for you?
I have a new album with Mike Portnoy and Ritchie Kotzen. I am supremely pleased with it – Ritchie sings his ass off plays a really unique approach on guitar. A lot of stuff he’s not even using a pick anymore, at all. Mike, of course, is a spectacular drummer. I’m really pleased with this record and that’s coming out soon. I’m also working on a thing with a dear friend of mine, Ray Luzier, the drummer for Korn now. We do a bass and drum thing a lot, so we’re going to put together a record of crazy bassing and drumming together, so that should be cool.
I couldn’t help but notice something about your solo records: you released “Compression” in 2001, 4 years later you released “Cosmic Troubadour” in 2005, 4 years later there was “Holy Cow” in 2009…that pattern would point to a solo record in 2013!
I’m glad you pointed that out to me…I better get to work here! The thing I’m doing with Ray with bass and drums is kind of a solo thing. I may not do guitar or voice on it, because I’d like to have it be a pretty naked record. It will be kind of unique in the respect that it’s just bass and drums, but we can make it sound huge because less is more when it comes to a mix. After I work on a bunch of different projects I get into writing mode and a whole new bunch of things come out of it. I’ll be hitting that soon, I’m sure.
To close, you exude positivity when you talk about music. Does that come from a pure love of playing?
That’s exactly it. I don’t think that I’m naturally talented at all, I just love music and playing so much that I just hit it and hit it and hit until I got it. For some people, it’s like it’s built into them. For me, it was always work, which was a blessing in disguise. I knew players back in Buffalo that were automatic and great, but they kind of got lazy too. They never really rose any greater than their particular level. Where I had nothing, my only choice was to work my ass off. I guess I’ve been blessed with a real love for music and fortunately, that’s what I do for a living. They say if you do what you love, you never work a day in your life and that’ s really true. People ask me, “Outside of music, what do you do?” I go, “Not too much!” There’s not much more that I do except play, but it’s plenty for me. To actually be a musician and to earn a living at it, I couldn’t be more thankful, because it couldn’t get any better! At my age now, I’m marking 60 years of age, I’m so pleased that I have friends and contacts all over the world, it’s the greatest riches you could ever have. I’m just here to play and I love to do it. I’m very, very lucky. I’m very thankful that somehow I got built this way.
Ricky Phillips, STYX Bass And More – February 2024
Ricky Phillips, STYX Bass And More…
I have always been a huge Styx fan. Their music kept me awake during countless nights studying and gave my imagination a place to escape when I had a moment to take a break.
I had the immense opportunity to chat with STYX bassist Ricky Phillips for our August Cover in 2017 and follow his projects as time passed. Now, I am thrilled to have the opportunity to catch up with Ricky as he has been super-busy over the past six years.
Join me as we take a deep dive into the band’s most recent album “Crash the Crown” and EP “The Same Stardust”. Ricky shares some insights into the herculean team effort behind the scenes and the musical process that keeps them ever so busy and how he has updated his sound.
Without further ado… Here is Ricky Phillips!
Photo: Jason Powell
“Crash of the Crown” lyric video
“Reveries” lyric video
“Save Us From Ourselves” lyric video
“Sound the Alarm” lyric video
“Too Much Time On My Hands” Zoom video 2020
FB & IG @styxtheband
Jeff Pilson, Foreigner Low End – January 2024
Jeff Pilson, Foreigner Low End – January 2024…
Those of us who were around back in the 70’s remember how certain songs on the radio resonated with us. It turns out that many of these iconic melodies came from Foreigner and they were part of our personal soundtracks!
After all these years, the band is going as strong as ever with Jeff Pilson firing away on bass midstream into a 2-year farewell tour.
I am excited to be able to bring you all the details about Jeff’s musical Journey, the farewell tour in progress, how he gets his sound and his plans for the future.
Cover Photo: Krishta Abruzziini / Video Photos: Krishta Abruzzini, Karsten Staiger, Gina Hyams
For more news on FOREIGNER and upcoming Farewell Tour dates, fans can visit:
Also on FB @officialjeffpilson
Rodney O’Quinn, Rockin’ Hard Through the Years – December 2023
Interview With Foghat Bassist Rodney O’Quinn…
Many rock fans have enjoyed music by Foghat, who originally formed in London back in 1971.
Over the many decades of playing, the band members have changed, leaving behind only Roger Earl as the only original member. Bassist Rodney O’Quinn left the Pat Travers Band and joined the group in 2015 and has been laying down the low end for this iconic quartet keeping the Foghat legacy alive. With a new album titled “Sonic Mojo” which dropped on November 10th, the band is as busy as ever and there is lots of very tasty music to come.
Join me as we learn of Rodney O’Quinn’s musical journey, how he gets his sound, and his plans for the future.
Cover, Jake Coughlin
Video Thumbnail, Tom Apathy
Photos used in the video: Kerry Quinn, Chuck Lanza, Kim Granger, Kenneth Strohm, Jake Coughlin, Jay Jylika
1st Single from Sonic Mojo – Official “Drivin’ On”
2nd Single from Sonic Mojo – “She’s a Little Bit of Everything Official Video
“Road Fever”- California Mid State Fair – Paso Robles, CA – 7-27-22
“Stone Blue” – Rodney O’Quinn Bass/Lead Vocals – Don Odell’s Legends – Woonsocket, R.I – 10/15/22 – The Stadium Theater
The Earl’s Court – Season 2, Episode 7: Funny Guys
“I Just Want to Make Love to You” – CasinoRama – 6-9-23
FOGHAT “Somebody’s Been Sleepin’ in My Bed” – Mohegan Sun, Uncasville, CT – 1/28/22
“I Just Want to Make Love to You” – California Mid State Fair – Paso Robles, CA – 7-27-22
Suzi Quatro, Eternal Powerhouse – November 2023
Interview With Bassist Suzi Quatro…
It is always exciting to have the opportunity to talk to an artist who has been prolific for decades.
Suzi Quatro has been rocking our world since the sixties and has been super-creative as a bassist, musician, actress, singer, songwriter, author, radio show host and so much more. Most recently, Suzi released a new album titled “Face to Face” where she joined forces with KT Tunstall and together they are a force of nature. (See our video with Suzi about the album release)
Join me as we hear about Suzi’s musical journey, her many projects, how she gets her sound and her plans for the future.
Here is Suzi Quatro…
Suzi Quatro & KT Tunstall – “Truth As My Weapon” (Official Music Video)
“Shine A Light” music video (from the upcoming album)
“Bad Moon Rising” music video (from 2022):
Bass-Solo / Live in Prah? 1979
Glyserine Queen / Bass solo – Tampere Finland
Video – Andrew Whitton
Cover and Header Photo – Courtesy of Suzi Quatro
Zach Fowler, Not Just Laying Down the Low End – October 2023
Zach Fowler, Not Just Laying Down the Low End – October 2023
I have been hearing about Zach Fowler’s bass playing since he was in New Mexico. Now, based out of Nashville, Zach is very busy laying down the low end, acting as musical director, writing songs and producing music. He has been very active doing studio work as well as touring with LoCash.
Join me as we hear about Zach’s journey, how he gets his sound, all the details about his new Lakland bass and his plans for the future.
Here is Zach Fowler!
Photos Credits – Cover, Allee Visuals / In Video – Matthew Allen, Max Muehlhausen
Typical, run-of-the-mill, slap happy bass solo taken during LOCASH’s performance at the Suwannee River Jam in Live Oak, Florida on May 4, 2018. Video was shot by David Lehr.
This was part of a series of acoustic performances filmed at the famous Blackbird Studios in Nashville.
LOCASH performs a song from “The Fighters” album called “Shipwrecked.” This was filmed not long after I joined LOCASH, and I’m using a Carvin PB5 plugged straight into the board via a Countryman DI.
LOCASH performs “One Big Country Song” at the Grand Ole Opry in May 2022.
We performed the song along with Opry House Band, and the performance was in conjunction with The Beach Boys’ first performance at the Opry (which explains why we’re wearing leis around our necks). I used one of my two PRS Grainger 5-strings plugged directly into the Opry’s house rig, which is made by Aguilar.
One of only two times that I’ve recorded myself playing bass.
I arranged John Legend’s “Ordinary People” for solo bass, and used my PRS Gary Grainger 5-string plugged into a Gallien-Krueger PLEX preamp. I added a little reverb in Logic to give it a little ambience. I recorded this right after the COVID shutdown happened. I’m not too big on recording myself playing bass, so this was somewhat of a rarity, but considering my job had shut down, it felt like a good outlet to keep my name on the radar. There’s a little gratuitous slapping in there, but mostly because I didn’t have an arrangement for the bridge section that I liked, so I just let loose.
During my time in Albuquerque, I was blessed to perform on two albums by a progressive rock trio by the name of Illustrated Man.
This song is off of their second album, “Zebra Hotel,” and is coincidentally called “Zebra.” I recorded this song using a Fender 5-string Precision Bass plugged into an Avalon U5 direct box.
I was with a band called The James Douglas Show for eleven years.
We put out four studio albums, and this track is off the final album we put out called “9.” The track, called “Can’t Stop,” was written by our guitar player, Jesse Martinez, and produced by Mike Cee. As is typical with a lot of R&B tracks, I overdubbed a bass track over an already-existing synth bass line. I used a Carvin JB5 run into an Avalon U5 direct box.
“Kissing a Girl” is a track off of LOCASH’s album, “Brothers.”
We recorded a live version of the song at a venue in Minnesota during soundcheck. The video was shot by David Lehr, and the sound was edited and mixed by our production manager at the time, Evan (“Turbo”) Owen. It was negative 12 degrees outside in February, which explains why most of the people in the band are wearing beanies on their heads. I used my main road bass on this track, my white PRS Gary Grainger 5-string, plugged into my Gallien-Krueger PLEX preamp, then into a Radial FireFly direct box. I used a little bit of compression from my Origin Effects Cali76 compressor pedal, as well as a little bit of added chorus effect from an EBS UniChorus pedal to give it a little bit of a fretless sound.
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