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Robert “Kool” Bell, Still Kool After All These Years – Bass Musician Magazine, December 2015 Issue



Robert Kool Bell, Still Kool After All These Years – Bass Musician Magazine, December 2015 Issue

Robert “Kool” Bell, Still Kool After All These Years – Bass Musician Magazine, December 2015 Issue…

When Kool & The Gang released the ultimate party anthem, Celebration in 1980 it would have been hard to believe that 35 years later, the track would be applied to celebrating themselves. And celebrate they should as 2014 marked the group’s 50th year in existence, longer than any other R&B group in history. And the achievements do not end there; with all of the group’s recent activity, the band is more relevant, more a part of pop culture than ever.

The band has crossed the generational gap by joining James Brown and Chic as one of the most sampled artists in Hip Hop, have racked up countless awards, accolades and gold & platinum albums, and have seen the aforementioned Celebration inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame; one of 26 recordings inducted which highlights diversity and recording excellence. 2015 also saw the band receive a gold star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and being inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame.

In the center – or shall we say, at the bottom – of all this activity is bassist Robert “Kool” Bell, whose bass lines are a quintessential part of the hooks and grooves of Kool & The Gang’s music. Mixing the swing of Jazz with the groove of Soul/R&B and the melodicism of Motown, Bell created an understated style that manages to drive the song while staying out of the way.

Days shy of their “mashup” performance with Jewel (affectionately dubbed Jewel & The Gang) on Jimmy Kimmel Live, BMM phoned in to Robert “Kool” Bell to discuss his extraordinary career, his approach to the bass and his very exiting plans for the future.

Photo and Cover by Sam Erickson

Photo and Cover by Sam Erickson

Well, we have some history to catch up on, let’s start at the beginning – how did Kool & The Gang come together?

When we first started, we were a backup band – actually, we first started playing our own style of jazz and then we became a backup band for local talent in Jersey City. The show was called the Soul Town Revue so we were the Soul Town Band and we had to learn all these songs for the groups that were part of the revue. Most of them were Motown songs because they were trying to be like Motown. So that started the development of my chops at that time. And that’s when I was into Jamerson because he was the bass player cutting all those tracks! And then there was James Brown, Sly & the Family Stone, and all that became a part of our repertoire.

And then Kool & the Gang left that organization, and went on to establish the name Kool & the Flames. By that point, we had developed a sound, a style that was a mixture of the jazz and the R&B because we had to learn those tracks and we were influenced by that style. That was really an earlier style of Kool & the Gang, an early style of playing.

And then we evolved, I guess, into the 70’s and we started to create more songs that were basically drum & bass driven along with the horns because we didn’t really have singers in the 70’s. So a lot of those tracks like Funky Stuff, Jungle Boogie, Chocolate Buttermilk or a lot of those songs we did were really Kool & the Gang-style records, just without the stronger vocal approach we added later on.

Even with so much of your early material being instrumental, the band’s music always had focus, the songs never meandered or got lost in excessive soloing.

Well, coming from the 60’s, the songs that we were learning to play had more structure – like the Motown sound. Since I Lost my Baby or Beauty is Only Skin Deep and all that stuff. Although there was singing, it was very melodic. So when we did our songs, we were influenced by that. Say Chocolate Buttermilk for instance, (sings horn line) – that was influenced by Motown!

Who were your influences early on?

Early on, I listened to people like Ron Carter and James Jamerson and I listened to a lot of the early bassists and then guys like Stanley Clarke. I really didn’t play with anyone else except Kool & the Gang so most of my experience has been working with the other members of the group.

Photo by Silvia Mautner

Photo by Silvia Mautner

How would you describe your bass style?

My style has been pretty basic you know. I really focus on working with the drummer – George Brown – and not getting too fancy (laughs)! I don’t do slap-style bass playing.

How do you build your bass lines?

Basically, a lot of the songs start with the drums and a groove and then we build a house or a foundation with that. Then we put the keyboards, guitars, horns later on. But they started with the bass & drums at first.

The band’s sound has seen a few shifts over your career, how did you approach the more keyboard-dominant sound of the mid 80’s?

Well, again, one of the identities of Kool and the Gang was always the horns and even during the 80’s, we would keep it more… let’s say Ladies Night for instance, that was right after doing a song like Open Sesame. But in the Ladies Night song, it was always that horn identity and that bass identity. So if you had the beginning of Ladies Night (sings horn line) we would take parts of Open Sesame (sings horn line) we always kept our identity in terms of how we use the horns and how we use the bass. Now Emergency [1984] that was a little more guitar-driven and more ‘rock’ than what we had done. But you can still hear that Kool & the Gang style in it!

What coming up for 2016?

Well, we are working on a new product. We’re also looking into a tour for next year; we’re working on a book and hopefully a musical at some point! We’ve been going back and forth with this and hopefully by 2017, we’ll be able to accomplish that.

Oh, just recently, we did a show – the JVC Jazz Festival in Nice – and Larry Graham joined me onstage (laughs)! For Celebration you know. And I have had various conversations with Bootsy Collins about doing something together like 2 or 3 bass players doing something together like Bootsy, maybe Larry Graham and myself!

Photo by Silvia Mautner

Photo by Silvia Mautner

Kool’s gear:

Robert Bell’s no-nonsense approach to playing bass extends to his gear. When talking about his basses, Bell notes that his preference is, “Always four strings. The early days were a Fender Jazz or a Precision. There was a bass that was made by… it was called an Oasis. That was another bass that I used quite a bit. And then I was introduced to Zon, and I’ve been using them for about the past 10-15 years.”

Bell’s bass tech, Charles “CJ” Johnson, says that the Zon basses are Sonus models and are strung with DR Hi Beams gauged 45-105.

While Bell has used Ampeg and Fender amplifiers over the years, he has relied on Eden Amplification in recent years. His current stage rig consists of the World Tour 800 head, which according to Johnson has, “A great EQ section and is very clean. You can also bi-amp those so when you adjust your crossover point, which for Kool, I drop it way down to about 100 hZ, I can separate my 15, my low-end cab from my high cab. And you can adjust the sweet spot for yourself or the venue.” For bi-amping, an Eden XT 410 is used for the highs while an XT 610 pumps out the lows. The 610 Johnson notes, “Moves a lot of air and the 800 has no problem pushing it”.

Bell does not use any effects pedals on stage aside from a tuner and an A/B box, which toggles between a bass with a wireless unit and another that uses a standard instrument cable should the wireless unit fail. From the wireless unit, the bass signal goes to the pedals and then to a DI, which is used for FOH sound. A signal from the DI travels to an Avalon preamp before hitting the front of the amplifiers. Johnson says that the Avalon preamp is used, “To get a little more EQ for onstage monitoring. The Avalon is just for Kool’s stage sound.”

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Photo by Photo by Sam Erickson

Photo by Photo by Sam Erickson



Bass Videos

Ricky Phillips, STYX Bass And More – February 2024



Ricky Phillips, STYX Bass And More, January 2024

Ricky Phillips, STYX Bass And More…

This Week’s Top 10 Basses on Instagram

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

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FB & IG @styxtheband

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Bass Videos

Jeff Pilson, Foreigner Low End – January 2024



Jeff Pilson - Bass Musician Magazine - 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

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Bass Videos

Rodney O’Quinn, Rockin’ Hard Through the Years – December 2023



Rodney O'Quinn, Rockin’ Hard Through the Years – December 2023

Interview With Foghat Bassist Rodney O’Quinn…

Rodney O'Quinn - Bass Musician Magazine - December 2023-v2

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.

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

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Bass Videos

Suzi Quatro, Eternal Powerhouse – November 2023



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

Follow Online:
IG @suziquatroreal
FB @Suziquatrorocks
TW @Suzi_Quatro

Video – Andrew Whitton
Cover and Header Photo – Courtesy of Suzi Quatro

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Bass Videos

Zach Fowler, Not Just Laying Down the Low End – October 2023



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.

Follow Online:
IG @zachfowlerbass
FB @ groovemaster82

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