ERB Legend Scott Fernández – Bass Musician Magazine, December 2016 Issue
ERB Legend Scott Fernández
We’re pretty aware that many might consider Scott ‘too young’ to be considered for this ERB Legends Special. We decided to include him because apart from being an extraordinary player, he’s nowadays one of the most active ERB bassists in the world. Let’s see what he has to share…
Please tell us about your musical background and that crucial moment when you decided to move into the ERB field.
I grew up in Puerto Rico where I developed an affinity for music early on. I had no idea what I was doing when I made up tunes or whistled new melodies/harmonies over my favorite songs was just making music, but I had done that most of my life. When I first started picking up instruments to do the same I was instantly hooked!
I played a 4-string through 6-string bass for upwards of 9 years before I considered a real move onto more, virtually skipping straight to a ‘standard’ 12-string single course instrument. It happened while attempting to illustrate what I wanted to hear for a band I was playing for, when my hands kept running into each other. If I tried to just move it up the neck I would run out of room. It was at that time that my options became VERY clear… move into more strings.
What would you say to all those ERB haters around?
“Haters” and naysayers, as it were, don’t much bother me. It’s a practice of fear and ignorance. They often hate the instruments without ever really trying one, or fear the idea that they ‘could’ somehow be wrong in the opinions they have developed on something they’ve never invested any time into. It would be similar to me hating a food I’ve never eaten. Doesn’t make much sense.
In your opinion, what are the benefits and downsides of playing with an ERB?
The benefits are VERY simple: Freedom. I can pick up my basses and play anything I can imagine and just about everything I hear. I do that because my instruments have those options. I see a bassist playing something amazing and my first thoughts aren’t, “How do I learn that,” but rather, “What position should I start playing it at to make it artistically my own?”
It is like a car… sure you can get to work in a beat-up old junker, but I would much rather drive the way I want to in a sports car.
How do you take care of the string-muting and string-spacing issues?
String-muting has become a two-fold attack, with only slight variations depending on the composition.
In a band setting where what I play may not be as intricate, I find that the standard resting of my left and right hands function more than adequately, since I am often in a prone “pizzicato” position.
In a more solo composition or something with a bit more aggressive slapping/popping technique, I use a lot of the same with the added Gruv Gear Fret Wraps to keep away any unwanted sympathetic resonances, as my 12-string is VERY prone to them.
Please tell us how your extended range bass has evolved through the years.
I’ve had the wonderful good fortune of getting to work with some of the most amazing Luthiers in the world and moved my optimal designs into each additional bass I’ve had made. My wonderful 12-string Benavente had VERY few limitations. Adding my 8-string Ergo for fretless and upright sounds, my 18-string Prat for sonically producing more in its triple courses then my 12 could create, and my 8-string Prat that allows me to experiment with any tuning (I might imagine and which it is most commonly tuned in 5ths over 4ths), I have continued to push what I understand, while attempting to find the limitations of each instrument.
Please tell us about the evolution your ERB playing technique has experienced through the years.
I’ve always been of the mind that each instrument a player picks up has its own attributes and voice, and as such deserves its own way of playing. That applied long before my basses and their respective technique. The things I played on a 4-string MusicMan were always VERY different then what I would play on a Fender J 4-string.
My stepfather taught me to take every musical situation and every instrument you play as its own and avoid carry over. I believe he was doing so in reference to the artist Prince and his practice of VERY different technique and play-style when he switched between instruments, but I figured I could apply the same value to just bass.
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?
My turning point was VERY exact. I had just moved back to this country from Brazil and I didn’t even own a bass at the time. All I wanted was to play so I jumped right in, head first, into a world of music and extended range bass that I honestly had very little knowledge of beforehand.
I decided I would put all of my efforts into pursuing the artistry of music and the very selfish pursuit to play the way I wanted, and doing so where and when I wanted. I did just that and SOMEHOW became more appealing to many other people in the process.
I am INCREDIBLY fortunate that it worked out the way that it did. I can no longer imagine a world where bass wasn’t a part of my every day and that doesn’t bother me even a little!
As far as my primary contributions go, I believe that I have served as a reasonable proxy for the community in a handful of demographics. I have been a very vocal proponent and have used my instruments in a variety of settings to demonstrate the depths of the capacity of ERBs, as instruments that do not require genre. I’d like to think that I’ve managed to present my positions in a sensible and logic-filled way to the public, both naysayer/hater and otherwise, in hopes to help other people in the community that might not be as verbose or comfortable speaking on the subject, a source with which to pull from when confronted by both opposition and support.
You can pick up a 12-string and play any gig, anywhere from the 1/4/5 country to the most technical of tech-metal and any and everything in between. I haven’t delved as much with the microtonal community as it’s just not my forte. I’m just hoping that in my years of playing and advocacy I have helped demonstrate that for anyone who has been a witness or asked about ERB.
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?
Take your time, and also to shut up.
A lot of younger players want to move onto ERBs very shortly after playing. They don’t invest in their foundations and it shows in their technique and compositions. They jump into being ‘busy’ to demonstrate their abilities rather than being ‘busy’ to create tension in the musical space.
All that is fine, but taking the time to build or put the air of openness into a composition when you do something impressive, is all the more impressive. Hell, you can do something impressive for a long enough time in a song and then suddenly drop it out and both yourself and the audience can find reprieve from the monotony of technique.
I mentioned my stepfather before, but when I started playing he shaped me very much. I told him that I wanted to learn how to play bass and he went out and bought me three records.
Larry Graham’s, “One in a Million”
Bootsy Collins’, “Ahh… The Name Is Bootsy, Baby!”
Return to Forever’s, “Romantic Warrior”
He handed them to me and said that if I could play everything from these records then I would be fine in any situation on the bass… He didn’t realize that I was talking about playing upright in the orchestra… and that was the catalyst for confusion and insanity that became what I do and what I do it on.
Please let us know about the specific elements of your gear.
My gear list is:
- Prat 18-string Triple Course tuned in 4ths (tuning varies)
- Benavente 12-string Single Course tuned in 4ths
C#, F#, B, E, A, D, G, C, F, A#, D#, D# – G# (highest string depends on the composition)
- Prat 8-string Single Course tuned in randomness
- Ergo 8-string Electric Upright tuned in 4ths F#, B, E, A, D, G, C, F
- All my strings are from Kalium Strings/Circle K, as they create the most tonally consistent and tension accurate sets of strings that I’ve found.
- Gruv Gear Duo Straps for all of my straps. Gruv Gear Fret Wraps for all of my Fret Wraps. Gruv Gear Stadium Bag to keep EVERYTHING I use in one place.
- Phil Jones Bass Amplification provides me with all the amp power I need for any venue of any size and are the company I find most capable of giving me exacting tone at any register, whether it be subcontra up to well into the highest trebles.
- My pedal board is comprised of a VERY wide variety of EHX Pedals and TC Electronic Pedals, as well as some very specific modifications done to said pedals by Chase Dawes.
Finally, what do you see as the possible evolution of our instrument?
Bass Guitar is a very young instrument in the world. None of us players have come anywhere NEAR the limits of what the instrument is capable of. I believe that we all contribute to the exploration of it collectively and I hope that as more and more of us look for those limits, we influence the next generations to take all that in and push out even further.
I look forward to seeing just how incredible bass will become in very little time.