Connect with us

Features

An Interview with Session Bassist Todd Ashburn by Jacob Ryan

Published

on

An-Interview-with-Session-Bassist-Todd-Ashburn-by-Jacob-Ryan

An Interview with Session Bassist Todd Ashburn by Jacob Ryan

Author Jacob Ryan
Author Jacob Ryan

Author Jacob RyanJacob Ryan is a Special Guest Writer for Bass Musician Magazine. The interview was held at The Tracking Room Studio in Nashville, TN. 

For just over four years now, I’ve been calling Nashville home, so it shouldn’t be surprising to anyone that I’ve been meeting a lot of musicians. Of course this is Music City, so I was bound to run into a shiftless artist or two … and some real talents as well. In an effort to cover my new city, and its’ real-life scene (not the one you hear on the radio or see on TV) I’ve decided to start a series of interview write-ups with area people, and artists of interest.

One such character worthy of note is Todd Ashburn, a gifted session bassist originally from Winston-Salem, NC. We met at a restaurant we both frequent, a place where we often spent time talking about sports, music, life and even some philosophy. Recently, during one of these meeting-of-the-minds, he mentioned to me that in the early 2000s he played for a pretty shreddy band called CANDY PIG. Back then CP was starting to see some success, playing with the likes of Social Distortion, Danzig, Marilyn Manson, Korn, and, most randomly, Vanilla Ice. They were also lucky enough to catch the eye and ears of a major record label, Atlantic Records. However, not all that glitters is gold, and early success wasn’t enough to keep CANDY PIG solvent. He now makes his living backing up other amazing musicians in the studio.

Knowing I’m an aspiring music journalist, Todd asked me out to hang during one of his session gigs, at the world famous Tracking Room studio. I’ve hung out with players at countless makeshift home rigs, but this was my first time in a legit, real-deal major league studio. Watching through the glass, I was super impressed with Todd’s skills slapping da bass, and was eager to talk shop with him during a break in the action. He stepped out of the massive recording room at the studio, where he’d been playing with Steppenwolf/Rod Stewart’s axe man, Danny Johnson, TOTO band member Buddy Hyatt and hit songwriter/vocalist John Flynt Adams, all of them cracking up about something or other they’d said during the recording session. We stepped out for a drink and some conversation.

(Jacob Ryan): Well, it must be pretty bad ass to play with rock stars like Danny Johnson of Steppenwolf and Buddy Hyatt of TOTO!

(Todd Ashburn): Yeah… I would have to say that DJ (Danny Johnson) and Bud (Buddy Hyatt) have the most tasteful licks of any guitarist and keys player that I have worked with here in Nashville … I love those guys. They are also great songwriters. The dude singing, Johnny Flynt, has some serious pipes. Man can sing. I’m lucky to be able to work with such talented people here in Music City.

(JR): Very cool man. You definitely have a Les Claypool feel to your playing, has he been a major influence? Any other bassists/musicians you really vibe with?

(TA): Thanks man, I get that a lot about Les. I am a huge fan of Les Claypool. Especially the “Tommy the Cat”, “Mud” and “Jerry” stuff. He’s better than me. I have hung out with him on a couple of occasions. Honestly, we talked more about fishing than playing bass. I would say Fleas early Red Hot Chili Pepper stuff was groundbreaking as well and it has influenced me along with Geddy Lee. Also a big fan of Robert Trujillo and Louis Johnson, who are wonderful people as well as incredible bassists.

Todd on the couch taken at The Tracking Room Studio main board / engineer room

(JR): You’ve told me before about your successful rap/metal/funk band CANDY PIG, how did ya’ll get your start, and what was the ‘industry’ like for you?

(TA): It was around 1993-1994, and I was dealing with the passing of my totally and willingly supportive father, Clint Ashburn. I needed to vent, so I started to write/play some very aggressive thumpy, slap-style bass lines if you will. I was living in Charlotte, with my girlfriend at the time, and she introduced me to her best friends boyfriend … sounds like a song title for sure. His name is Jimmy Hamblin. We quickly became best buds and started writing and jamming together. He brought his awesome energy and rap style vocal to the stage and the recordings. That was the start of CANDY PIG.  We later recruited a dynamic duo from Dallas, TX — Brooks Kaplan, a music school standout with crazy funky guitar licks and tones, plus Scott Sailer, “the admiral of funk”. Both were extremely talented musicians out of the Dallas’ metal scene.

Brooks came up with the design for the logo, and was also the marketing and managing side of the band. He was multi-talented. A good friend by the name of Lincoln Baugus (R.I.P) was also a huge part of getting CANDY PIG off of the ground at that time. He put a lot of heart and soul in, truly believing the band would make it, even though we had limited success at first. Every band has friends like Lincoln who are there for you when you need them and they don’t want anything in return. He was an awesome dude; a true friend.

Anyway, after the additions, CANDY PIG was officially a band. The name was coined by — I can’t remember if it was Jimmy, Brooks, or another very talented musician friend who was hanging with us at that moment Scoot Pittman — after Jimmy received some mail by mistake to his front door. It was supposed to be delivered to his neighbor; a lady named Candy Pig. We all loved that name, so we went with it. We recorded our first demo, played, and toured heavily with that lineup.

Brooks sent out our demo and press kit to the Ticketmaster Showcase Battle of the Bands through Rolling Stone magazine, and we were one of only 25 bands to be chosen out of over 2,000 entries. Eventually The Verve Pipe won, they had that popular song “The Freshmen” that came out shortly after on RCA Records. We finished closely behind, and played a couple more high profile showcases, which lead to talks with major labels, but we weren’t able to sign a deal. The band took a hiatus, and then Brooks, Scott, and Jimmy left. Chuck Craig, Heath Harris and Lance Oglesby were recruited soon after and the Pig was reborn. Chuck and Lance were my two favorite musicians in town other than Brooks and Scott. Heath was a star in the Atlanta music scene. Lance and Heath toured and recorded a demo or so with us then there were some more line-up shuffles. Chuck was friends with a couple of guys that he new from school and around the same town by the names of Scott Brown and Johnny Carver; Scott on guitar and Johnny on the mic.  Johnny with his vocal/rap skills, stage presence and overall vibe was special. He is one of those guys that you knew was a star when you were in the room with him. He brought a ton of additional label interest to the band. Scott Brown on guitar who also gave CANDY PIG a sound and vibe/flavor that was absolutely incredible. He came up with so many genius guitar licks it’s silly. We recorded our debut record, 43, which caught the attention of Clutchdog Records of Nashville. President and CEO Stephen R. Drummond liked what he heard, and his label released the record, which was on mainstream rock and alternative radio stations. The single “Slump Vibe” was a particular rotated song on these stations. Chuck eventually gracefully bowed out and we recruited Dan Lawlor, a friend of Chucks’, who was a session drummer, touring with a national recording artist, and also in a popular local Charlotte band that was going their separate ways at that time. This was the final lineup.

About this time, a local celebrity program director/DJ for one of the biggest alternative rock station in the South, 95.7 WXRC the Rock (out of Charlotte) took notice of us and pushed to have our music played even more on the hard rock and alternative markets. His name is Anthony Michaels and he is a hardcore motivator and extremely gifted in marketing. Anthony really put CANDY PIG on the national map. While he was pushing us on the radio and promoting our live shows he was also offered several major record label jobs. He chose Atlantic Records and brought us with him. Johnny, Scott, Dan and myself were in the studio recording an album for Atlantic Records, Essence of the Groove, but it was never released. The band dissolved shortly after. Wow, that’s like the “Book of Pig” right there! Sorry for rambling.

(JR): No worries, I enjoy the behind the scenes stories, and it’s always nice to show people some love. So with the various line-ups, you toured a lot, with some big name acts too, how was that experience?

(TA): CANDY PIG was very fortunate to play with a lot of major alternative acts of that time. We lived the life, and had so much fun, funking, slamming, sweating it out every night on tour. Our crowds were crazy rowdy! It was an intense time in my life.

After the Atlantic Records thing fell thru I took a break from music for a couple of years. Not long after I was reunited on the telephone with some Nashville guys that convinced me to move, and I did. Been loving it here ever since.

(JR): Nice. So what kind of bass are you playing today, and what other instruments do you mainly play, in your session work or otherwise?

(TA): This right here is a Spector L5C five-string, with rounds for my growl and punchy stuff. I also play an old Fender Precision with flats, another old Fender Jazz with flats, and a Music Man Stingray with rounds. I mostly use the Spector and I switch the round strings to flat strings for a warmer tone as needed. So you need lessons or what man?

(JR): Not ready to trade in my laptop just yet, but thanks! Maybe when my bank account erupts and I can afford one of those sweet Spectors… then I’ll give it a shot.

After some more small talk, I thanked him for his time and let man get back to work, tickling his bass strings. If you want to hear more from the Pig, have a listen to their last record, Essence of The Groove, right here. On the drive home I thought about how lucky I am to live in a city so rich with creative talent, how there are thousands of stories in Music City just like Todd’s … and how exciting it is to try to tell as many of those stories as humanly possible. Stay tuned for more reports on the real Nashville.

Visit Todd online at toddashburn.com

Bass Videos

Artist Update With Bassist Derek Frank

Published

on

Artist Update With Bassist Derek Frank

Bassist Derek Frank…

Many of you will remember the last time I chatted with Derek Frank was back in 2017. The main thing that impressed me was how busy Derek was and how he juggled playing with many huge acts.

Now, I am happy to hear that Derek launched a new album last March titled “Origin Story” where he digs deep into his roots and pays homage to Pittsburg.

Join me as we get caught up after all these years and hear the details about the new album, how Derek gets his sound, and his plans for the future.

Photo, Stephen Bradley

Visit Online:

www.derekfrank.com
www.instagram.com/derekfrankbass
www.youtube.com/derekfrankbass
www.facebook.com/derekfrankbass

Continue Reading

Bass Videos

Interview With Bassist Graham Stanush

Published

on

Interview With Bassist Graham Stanush

Bassist Graham Stanush…

Return to Dust is keeping Grunge alive and well! They have a new self-titled album that went out on May 3rd, 2024 and will be super busy promoting this project in the near future.

Graham Stanush is the bass powerhouse driving their sound and adding vocals to the mix. Join me as we hear all about Graham’s musical journey, details about the new album, how he gets his sound and their plans for the future.

Visit Online:

linktr.ee/returntodust
instagram.com/returntodustband/
twitter.com/Returntodustbnd
youtube.com/@returntodustband
tiktok.com/@returntodustband

Continue Reading

Bass Videos

Interview With Bassist Erick “Jesus” Coomes

Published

on

Interview With Bassist Erick Jesus Coomes

Bassist Erick “Jesus” Coomes…

It is always great to meet a super busy bassist who simply exudes a love for music and his instrument. Erick “Jesus” Coomes fits this description exactly. Hailing from Southern California, “Jesus” co-founded and plays bass for Lettuce and has found his groove playing with numerous other musicians.

Join us as we hear of his musical journey, how he gets his sound, his ongoing projects, and his plans for the future.

Photo, Bob Forte

Visit Online

www.lettucefunk.com
IG @jesuscsuperstar
FB@jesuscoomes
FB @lettucefunk

Continue Reading

Bass Videos

Tour Touch Base (Bass) with Ian Allison

Published

on

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/

Continue Reading

Features

Interview With Audic Empire Bassist James Tobias

Published

on

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 

Continue Reading