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The Latin Bass Issue – Pepe Hernandez

Pepe Hernandez, Bass Player, Composer, Arranger, Producer and Groove Man…

BMM Please share with us a little of your personal background… 

PH My grandfather was a drummer and bass player, my father is a gifted drummer & arranger, two of my brothers are great piano players. I grew up in Acapulco Mexico, listening to all kinds of music from Count Basie to James Brown, Mexican Huapangos to Blood, Sweat & Tears and Tower of Power. Being around music all day it was an obvious choice to be a musician. 

I studied at the Puebla Conservatory of Music, The National Conservatory of Music, Escuela Libre de Musica and then moved to New York and studied at Drummers Collective with Rick Laird and private lessons with Lev Sagevinzky. I had the chance to meet and hang around Jaco for quite some time. 

In 1984, I started a career as a session musician. So far I’ve collaborated on over 520 records. I’ve produced 4 CD’s as a soloist and I have toured all over the place from the USA to all of Latin America, Europe, Japan and China. 

BMM What was your first bass, and how did you come by it?

PH My father got me my first bass, it was a Yamaha, and was quite awful. Then I got my first Precision bass and after that I started caring about my sound. 

BMM Tell us about that very first day you had a bass in your hands.

PH No doubt it was an exciting moment and I developed a love for the instrument from that first day. 

BMM As a bassist born in Latin America, do you find this to be an advantage or disadvantage?

PH It’s absolutely an advantage. We are a step ahead because we are the result of a mixture of cultures, from Africa, Europe and of course, Indian, that makes our music very rich, melodically and rhythmically.

BMM What are your main musical and bass influences?

PH Jaco, Rocco, Stanley, Neils Petersen, Ron Carter, Ray Brown and of course Joe Zawinul and Chick Corea, besides my Latin roots.

BMM How do you define the music style you play?

PH As a side man, I have played just about every style, from Armenian to Brasilian to Funk, Soul, Pop and Jazz, so my music is “Mestiza.” Spaniards would say Mestizo, to the one born from an Indian woman and a White guy.

BMM How important is reading and studying music theory?

PH It’s absolutely necessary, it makes a big difference in your music.

BMM What do you consider the differences that technology and the Internet have made for you as a musician, compared to the previous generations that didn’t have these tools?

PH It has been a blessing. Before I would wait 3-4 months to get a book, now the information is right there; no doubt the best tool.  

BMM Tell us about your gear.

PH I’m obsessive with the sound, so I have plenty of basses and amps. I’m crazy about my new Paul Lairat fretless. Although I’m a Yamaha endorsee on session I also play my custom RKM Basses, GreyMan Basses, Fodera, Skjold Design, NS Design, all five-string tuned from high C to E; I’ve used this tuning for the last 25 years. I endorse TC Electronic and Phil Jones. 

BMM Who are your favorite Latin American bassists?

PH The greatest Latin bass player is Abe Laboriel, but I love Lalo Carillo’s playing, Agustín Bernal is a master contrabassist, Sal Cuevas is fantastic, Igor Saavedra and Christian Gálvez from Chile are great, Vadala from Argentina is cool. Nico Assumpção from Brasil and of course Carles Benavente from Spain and Alain Pérez from Cuba. They all have their own voice. 

BMM Please leave some motivational and encouraging words for the next generation of Latin American bassists.

PH I would say, never stop believing in what you do… if it grooves, it moves. Learn to listen and keep your low notes. 

Visit online at pepehernandezmusic.com

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