Bassist Roland Pritzger – Why Is Music Important (The Panel Experiment) by Brent-Anthony Johnson…
Who are you, and what do you do?
My name is Roland Pritzger. I do a lot of things! But, I’ve been playing bass longer than anything else I do!
Who are your primary musical influences?
When I began playing the bass guitar, my primary influences were bassist Victor Wooten, in addition to the music of Stevie Ray Vaughn, Stevie Wonder, and Michael Jackson! I also really like the sound of bands! So, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Tower Of Power were also early musical influences. Lately, I’ve been listening to groups like Lettuce, and I’ve been listening to Trevor Hall and several singer-songwriters.
Can you tell us about your earliest musical listening and performance experiences? Also, what projects are you participating in lately?
My first memory of enjoying music is reaching way up above where I could actually see, and putting the record player’s needle on the beginning of Beethoven’s “The Emperor’s Concerto”, and standing in front of the record player… conducting the music! I might have been 3-years-old!
I am currently playing with the band Blinddog Smokin’, and I’ve also been collaborating with the great Otis Rush.
What have you been listening to musically, in the past 12 months that has enhanced the way you think about music and your craft?
As odd as it sounds… Weird Al! I’ve been listening to how he mimics people and the subtle difference from the original songs he parodies has made me look at sounds and instrumentation differently, and, I hope, more creatively.
If we wanted to listen to you, which recordings would you suggest? Along with that, which recordings are you proudest of and why?
Blinddog Smokin’s “Up From The Tracks” (the first release with a real producer) is something I’m very proud of.
I recorded an entire album’s worth of material on an instrument that was making background noises that we didn’t hear until the mixing phase, the first time! So, I later had to re-record all the bass parts. The tracking only took about 75-minutes. But, it is some of my finest work! Nothing fancy. Just laying it down like a bass player is supposed to!
How does your personal musical voice directly relate to the function of the basses? Also, what are your main instruments?
While the bass guitar wasn’t m first instrument, it is now my main instrument! So, after 22-years of focusing on the bass, I see the fretboard when I think of voicing, or when I’m trying to learn melodies without an instrument in m hands. I love that bass lines are a construction of melody, harmony, and groove! It is that musical intersection and hybridity that makes being a bassist so rewarding to me!
Describe your musical composition process.
It usually begins by hearing a random bass line or melody in my head. Then, I try to get to an instrument as quickly as possible to flesh out that melody, or line, on the bass. From there it is a process of building a drum groove, while adding changes, parts, and hooks until I have a presentable piece of music.
How does music affect your culture and immediate environment?
My living space is full of musical instruments! Also, music must accompany me during all my drives, and my workouts. Otherwise, I feel empty and bored.
What would you be, if not a professional musician?
HMMM… Philanthropist/ Entrepreneur… or a racecar driver.
What is the greatest sacrifice you’ve ever made while in the practice of being a musician, and how did that sacrifice affect you?
When I began touring with a band in my early twenties, I had no health or nutrition knowledge. So, after a couple years of near-constant roadwork I was depressed, overweight, and generally unhealthy. When the touring finally started slowing down, and I saw what I needed to do for my life, I began exercising regularly and eating well.
Describe your standing practice regimen. Also, what technical (and musical) aspects of your playing are you currently working on?
I have been working on songwriting and theory for the past several months. So, I have been playing more guitar and drums. I don’t, unfortunately, have a regular practice regimen at this time. But, that reminds me that I should probably put one together!
What does music, and being a musician, mean to you – at the deepest level of your being?
Music is expression and execution, interpretation, enjoyment, relaxation… At my deepest level, I’m just proud and humbled to able to make music!
How important is it to understand the language of music?
Well, in order to truly express yourself articulately you need to know the Language! However, there are many people gifted with the ability to express deep emotion with no true musical knowledge whatsoever. So, there are many variables of musical understanding…
How do you collect the series of seemingly random influences and articulate them through music?
All the influences become a part of me and they come out naturally and without conscious effort… most of the time!
Can music ever truly become commercial? Why, or why not?
I can’t think of a time when the need to make music for a specific project made the music worse. That would be how I define “commercial music”, I guess: if the fact that it’s for money makes the music worse, then it’s commercial. Whatever project I’m working on I always do my best to make each song the best it can be. I work hard to feel and understand the personality of each song, and I do my best in my role as a bass player to let that personality breathe and flourish. That’s why I love playing music – to get lost in the expression, groove, and common goal of making a song great with the other musicians, to the point of being “unconscious” – as they say in basketball. That feeling is deeply spiritual for me and it’s so good that I want everyone to feel I and I feel bad for people who never have that experience.