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ERB Legend Melvin Lee Davis – Bass Musician Magazine, December 2016 Issue

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ERB Legend Melvin Lee Davis

You can find Melvin playing his amazing grooves for people like The Pointer Sisters, Lee Ritenour, Patti Austin, Gladys Knight & The Pips, Tina Turner, George Benson and many more. Melvin also co-wrote that famous Soul Train theme song. In the mid 90’s he had an idea for a 7-String bass and asked Luthier Ken Smith to build it; this ERB has been on his side for 22 years. Let’s see what the pioneer of the 7-string ERB has to share with us…

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

My introduction to music came at an early age. My parents put a radio in my bedroom when I was a child. I was surrounded by the music of the 60’s. Once I began school, I started learning how to play an instrument in our music class, and given a choice of instruments to learn, I chose the saxophone. That instrument of choice would be with me for the next 9 years. I became good enough to occupy the 1st and 2nd chair in our high school big band and our marching band, until my junior year of high school. From there I began to take an interest in the bass guitar.

There was a strong R&B presence during that time. Funk had begun to take hold, and the bass players of that period were laying down some serious grooves that made you want to move and dance. That’s when I switched from saxophone to electric bass; I knew this was the instrument for me.  I decided to move from the standard electric 4-string bass to an ERB, because I was a huge fan of legendary bassist Anthony Jackson’s work at the time. His groove on “For The Love Of Money” by the vocal group “The Ojays” was legendary in our community.

The maker and creator of his basses Ken Smith, was such an innovator of the ERB. Once I saw and heard Anthony’s bass, I knew I had to have a Ken Smith ERB. When I began working for guitarist Lee Ritenour in the early 90’s, there were a few songs that were blessed with Anthony Jackson’s performance. The ERB was a crucial component for performing Lee’s music at the time. The rest is history for me.

What would you say to all those ERB haters around?

I wouldn’t say anything to the haters, they are entitled to their opinion. That being said, I am not defined by their opinions. The ERB is no different then a keyboard with 76 keys versus a keyboard with 88 keys. They both play the same notes, the difference is the 88 keyboard has an extended range. That’s how I view the ERB, a bass with extended range. I understand what my role is as the supporter of the music. If you close your eyes and listen to my playing in a band situation, you can’t tell If I am playing an ERB, because I play in the range that matters to the music.

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

The benefit is having the extended range. The downside is not knowing when to use it.

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

I have big hands (laughing). My outer palm covers the bridge area on my bass quite comfortably. As for spacing, my Ken Smith MD7 String has the normal spacing of a 4-string jazz bass. I prefer it that way because of the size of my hands. The wider neck allows me to extend my fingers for comfortable playing.

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

It hasn’t really evolved for me, well with the exception of wood choices. I’ve been a loyal supporter of Ken Smith’s work. I gave him an idea in the early 90’s and he ran with it and produced an instrument that I’ve been playing for 22 years, and continue to play to this day.

mel-4

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

My playing technique always evolves according to the musical situation. From gospel to jazz and every genre in between. It requires a certain technique and understanding of the musical language. I consider myself to be a musician first! The instrument I choose to make music with is the electric bass.

I see my instrument as a “bass with extended range”. You will hardly ever hear the “C” or “F” string on my bass unless there are musical lines that require the range, or I am called to play a solo. I consider my technique to be one of ‘call and response’. Once I hear the chord being played, I respond with informed note choices. As a former saxophonist, I tend to hear melodies in the higher register. The ERB provides that range.

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 when I picked up the bass guitar for the first time and fell in love with its power to drive the music. To engage the spirit of the listener and cause a positive reaction to dance was powerful to me.

As for legacy… I am well recorded in my professional career. I can’t count the Artists or the amount of recordings I have been blessed to contribute to. I don’t really know what my legacy will be. I am still alive and working (smile). The comments and reviews have been favorable, so the legacy building process continues. I just want to continue to do good work, and bring smiles to the faces of those people out there listening. In the end my legacy will take care of itself.

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?

Enjoy exploring the possibilities the ERB has to offer, but never forget the importance of your roll as bassist.  The position you play is very important to the music. It matters what you say and how you say it when interacting with other musicians in a group situation.

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

My current setup is TC Electronic “Blacksmith amp” with 2 x “RS112 cabinets”, a pedalboard with various effects. My pedalboard configuration changes often.

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

I am not really sure what the future holds for the ERB. Some of my colleagues have left the 5-string world and switched back to playing 4-string basses, and more 5-string players have decided that 5-strings is their limit. As for me, I tour with a 5 & 7-string bass, because one size/sound doesn’t fit all situations for me.

That being said, technology has a way of finding new opportunities to innovate when it comes to the world of ERB’s. There are many Luthiers out there looking for ways to improve the ERB.

Visit online at www.melvinleedavis.com

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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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