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ERB Legend Al Caldwell – Bass Musician Magazine, December 2016 Issue

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ERB Legend Al Caldwell

St. Louis native Al Caldwell has been playing the electric bass for almost 40 years. In his early days Al was a student and a big fan of Anthony Jackson’s career and the 6-string bass. In the beginning of the 80’s Al played in NYC with a young Dave Weckl and so many others, gaining a high reputation as a side man, finally becoming Vanessa William’s bassist for the last 20 years. Al has been playing ERBs for almost 15 years and this is what he shared with us.

Please tell us about your musical background and that crucial moment when you decided to move into the ERB field.  

I started as a singer/dancer at age ten. My first instrument was clarinet in the 7th grade and trumpet in the 8th.

I wanted to be a great music teacher like Herman Morgan, my high school music teacher. He let me take all of the instruments home with me. I’d study each instrument for one month. I had the instruction book of fingerings and scales and songs. I learned that bassoon and oboe were the hardest instruments to get a good sound out of. Mr. Morgan allowed me to play at concerts, but he always put emphasis on reading music. He told me that if you can read music, then you can get to your goal five years ahead of the guy who is self-taught; that knowledge saved my musical life.

In 1976 I fell deeply in love with the bass. I was torn between Classical trumpet and Electric bass; the bass won.

In 1983, I moved to New York and had a custom 5-string bass made for me by Milan Kozak. I needed the low B-string to cover the synth bass boom. I was crashing with Dave Weckl for a few months while living in New York. We’re both from St. Louis. He played drums on my demo tape. We both would hang out at 7th Ave South and record cassettes of French Toast, which included Micheal Camillo and Anthony Jackson. I would study Anthony’s parts, and Dave and I would jam at his house on the grooves that we recorded of the band. Anthony and I became friends, and I was lucky enough to go to a few recording sessions, have lunch with him, and talk about bass and music.

Anthony is the father of the whole ERB movement. I would hear record producers tell him that he didn’t have the same control on the 6-string bass as he did with the 4-string, although his mastery of his 6-string was without peer. He would defend himself when confronted with the prejudice of his creation, but the concept made sense to me. Anthony also introduced me to Ken Smith.

A 6-string at that time was beyond my financial means, so Carl Barney and I made my first 6-string bass. I used a pedal steel pickup, a P-bass combination, and a 4-inch piece of hanger for my bridge until I was given a bridge at a music store in Cali. I think the guy who gave me the bridge was Mike Tobias.

What would you say to all those ERB haters around?

I’d tell them that Leo Fender had a horrible time trying to get anyone to play his basses. I still don’t know why Fender doesn’t have a tribute to the guys who put them on the map like Monk Montgomery, Chuck Rainey, James Jamerson, and Bob Babbit. Those were true pioneers of a brand-new instrument in a wide-open field of music. The 4-string bass doesn’t go low enough for my taste. I love low F#!!!! Sub Contra Bass for Life!!!! My favorite photo of Jaco is seeing him with a 5-string bass at the beach; it’s in his documentary.

In your opinion, what are the benefits and downsides of playing with an ERB?

The ERB experience for a composer is truly similar to that of writing for a string piano. I have mine modified for MIDI so that I can extend my tonal palette. I see no downsides to it. A horse and buggy are fun to ride every now and then, but when you have to get there and get it done, you drive the car.

How do you take care of the string-muting and string-spacing issues?

I use Fret Wraps by Gruv Gear! They are much better than stealing my daughters hair scrunchies. I play mostly finger style on the ERB. I can slap on it but I just don’t hear that style fitting in a lot of my music. 18mm is my preferred string spacing. I started on a 1970s Jazz Bass, so that spacing was perfect to me.

Please tell us how your extended range bass has evolved through the years.

I started with a 5-string in 1983, a 6-string in 1985. Parts were hard to come by back then. I bought my Conklin 7-string in 2002, a Conklin 9-string MIDI in 2003, two Conklin hollow body 9-string MIDI basses in 2004, and a Benavente 9-string MIDI and Benavente 11-string MIDI in 2005. I’m getting a Pete Skjold fretless 6-string very soon and Chris Benavente is making me the ultimate HYBRID instrument. I feel so blessed to have worked with some incredible Luthiers. I’ve come a long way since making my first Bootsy Star Bass in High School when I was 16 years old in 1976.

erb-legend-al-caldwell-bass-musician-magazine-december-2016-issue-2

Tell us about the evolution your ERB playing technique has experienced through the  years.  

Because of Anthony Jackson, the quarter note has been a major turn around for me. I used to play through music but now I section it all out and determine when I’m going to sit or drive the train. Playing with Vanessa Williams has given me a chance to play my 11-string and 9-string with a lot of symphonies. I approach my ERB as an orchestral instrument. Phrasing and timing are paramount when blending with the symphony. I’m working on the guitar register so that I can concentrate on chordal voicings. In terms of genres, Jazz, Blues and Be-Bop are my passion at the moment.

What do you think is the turning point in your career as a bassist and what do you consider your main contributions to the bass scene? In other words what do you consider your legacy?

The turning point for me was moving to New York in 1983, meeting Anthony Jackson, and understanding his concept of the expansion of tonality. The right tool is everything when it comes to creativity. This man spared no expense to have the instrument and amplifier live up to what he heard in his mind’s eye. He reminded me that Luthiers are the middlemen when it comes to fulfilling our wildest musical desires. With their help, we can obtain the unachievable. I pray to inspire bassist to play what they feel is missing from their list of great songs. My legacy will be based on my compositions. I love being a bass player. I hear melodies in my head all the time, but the Groove Rules!!!

What would you say to those young musicians who’re considering at this moment going into the ERB world but are still not quite sure about doing so?

I would tell them that all instruments are tools for tonal and rhythmic creativity. If you hear music in your head that is beyond the tool you have chosen, then dare to dream bigger. If your musical palette craves a hybrid blend of bass and synth, then please consider a MIDI addition to your setup.

Please let us know about the specific elements of your gear.

I only use Garry Goodman Strings, they are Incredible! He is a genius and an incredible ERB pioneer player himself!

11-string tuning is Low C#, F#, B, E, A, D, G, C, F, Bb, Eb

9-string tuning is Low F#, B, E, A, D, G, C, F, Bb

6-string tuning is Low B, E, A, D, G, C  (Fretted and Fretless)

New Benavente HYBRID 7-string tuning is E, A, D, G, C, F, Bb

I really wanted MIDI but I had delay issues due to the thicker gauges of the strings. I had to move to 11-string so that I could have the higher six strings track with only a 2 millisecond delay as opposed to a 14 millisecond delay with the thicker bass strings. I wanted a bass that I could play Sub Contra Bass with. My 9-string has a separate pickup in the sweet spot so that I can only hear the top six strings that also are blended with the Roland MIDI pickup. I use the GR33 Roland module for MIDI. My Atelier Z Jino 6-string bass has been modified to give me a perfect finger style sound à la Music Man. It has incredible clarity.

My LowEnd Jazz Bass from Brian Barret is my slap bass and funk machine. Most of my songs were recorded with this instrument. I had Mike Adler do a pickup mod for me. It boosted the mids even more.

I still have my homemade 6-string that Carl Barney and I made in 1984. I used it on Greg Howe’s Introspection CD in 1993.

I have two basses on order. Pete Skjold is making a Fretless Chambered 6-string for me. He makes the best fretless that I have ever played in my LIFE! Chris Benavente, the Luthier of the 11- and 9-string, is making me a special HYBRID 7-string at a 33-inch scale. These tools should complete my ERB vision. I will dedicate my life to practice and recording the music of my mind.

Finally, what do you see as the possible evolution of our instrument?

I see the recognition of our ERB recordings propelling the demand of our instrument. I think the instrument itself is the evolution of the 4-string. No matter how many strings we choose to play, the melody and music always win in the end. I think we need to record as much music with these instruments as possible. They need to hear what we heard when we had these tools made for us. Some of our music can only be recreated on the instrument that we play.

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Bass Videos

Ricky Phillips, STYX Bass And More – February 2024

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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

Visit online:

www.Styxworld.com
FB & IG @styxtheband

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Bass Videos

Jeff Pilson, Foreigner Low End – January 2024

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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:
foreigneronline.com
facebook.com/Foreigner
twitter.com/ForeignerMusic
instagram.com/foreignerlive
youtube.com/user/FWebTeam
Also on FB @officialjeffpilson

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Bass Videos

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

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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.

Photos:
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

Visit Online:

www.foghat.com
www.facebook.com/Foghat
www.twitter.com/FOGHAT
www.instagram.com/foghat_official
www.youtube.com/user/FOGHATMUSIC

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Bass Videos

Suzi Quatro, Eternal Powerhouse – November 2023

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Suzi Quatro, Eternal Powerhouse – November 2023

Interview With Bassist Suzi Quatro…

Suzie-Quatro-Bass-Musician-Magazine-November-2023

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:

suziquatro.com
IG @suziquatroreal
FB @Suziquatrorocks
TW @Suzi_Quatro

Photos: 
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

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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:

www.zachfowlerbass.com
IG @zachfowlerbass
FB @ groovemaster82

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