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An Interview with Bassist Pete Griffin – Insight Into His World

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Bass Musician Magazine Goes In-Depth with Bassist Pete Griffin

Making it in the Los Angeles music scene is not an endeavor for the meek or faint of heart. With the talent bar raised at probably the highest levels in the world, along with incredible competition, becoming an in-demand bassist in the scene is a triumph achieved through years of hard work. Such a prime example is Mr. Pete Griffin. With a resume that includes: Steve Vai, Dr John, Zappa Plays Zappa, Zakk Wylde, Tony MacAlpine, Dethklok, Mike Keneally, Giraffe Tongue Orchestra, Generation Axe and many, many more. Pete was kind enough to sit down with Bass Musician to give us some insight into his world, give some pro tips, and to share what he had planned for a very busy and action packed 2017.

 

Your resume speaks volumes about your versatility and professionalism, how did you go about cracking into the LA scene and then networking to where you are at today?

When I first moved to LA I had very few connections so I knew I had to just “get out there” somehow.  I basically answered every “Bass Player Wanted” ad I could find, about 85% of which led me pretty much nowhere.  But a few of them turned into real paying gigs, or at least led me to playing live at places like the Roxy and Viper Room in a relatively short amount of time.  Pretty soon I started getting called for bigger auditions, and then I got the gig with Hanson (yes, that Hanson), which was my first touring job for about 3 years.

What is your preparation process like when getting ready for a big new gig? Like learning music for players like Steve Vai and the like?

For tours like Generation Axe and Paul Gilbert where I’ve got a ton of brand new material to learn I just try to take it a little at a time, and learning tunes basically becomes my day job for a while.  I’ve actually become fascinated recently with my own memory and what I call “hard disk space.”  Everyone retains new information differently, and I’ve found that taking time to rest and absorb everything is crucial.  I’ll finish a day of practicing thinking that I suck and I’ll never be able to overcome the task at hand, but then wake up the next day and nail the tune that was giving me such trouble the night before.  When I catch myself singing the songs to myself in the shower or while vacuuming I realize I’m gonna be in a good shape when it comes time to rehearse with the band.

Tell us a bit how you were called into the fold for Giraffe Tongue Orchestra?

Brent Hinds and I became friends after Mastodon played the same stage as Zappa Plays Zappa at Bonnaroo.  He’s a huge Zappa fan and came up to us right after they played to say he saw us in Atlanta and loved it.  We just stayed in touch after that, always throwing around the idea of being in a band together.  Thomas Pridgen and I had worked together with a band called ElixirOnMute, and we totally hit it off.  I’ve been an enormous fan of Dillinger Escape Plan for years and had met Ben Weinman after a show at some point and we emailed a bit after that trying to get something together.  One day Brent texts me out of the blue and asks if I wanna jam while he’s in LA, and when I asked when and where he said “Now!”  I walked in the room with those 3 guys already playing so I just jumped in and everything just came together really quickly after that.  We tracked the whole album with no vocalist, and then eventually William DuVall joined and just killed it over the instrumentals we had recorded and that’s how the album came out.

What was the writing process like for GTO?

Ben and Brent had been kicking ideas around for years, so they had some tunes pretty fully demo-ed out when we started.  But we did have a couple of days at my rehearsal studio where we just jammed and came up with a few ideas, which pretty organically turned, into a few more songs.

What gear have you been gravitating towards recently for your go-to stuff and why?

I wear so many different hats these days that I’m constantly changing out the pedals on my board as well as which bass I bring.  That being said I do still love my Lakland US Joe Osborn 4 and my Fender Dimension 5 for being able to fit into almost any situation.  I also recently got a D. Lakin Bob Glaub which is an incredible instrument, as well as the one slightly “modern” bass I have which is a Sandberg Custom Supreme 5, which I use for the super chops-y material like the Animals as Leaders stuff with Tosin Abasi or Steve Vai’s material on the Generation Axe tour.  For pedals my main distortion for years has been the MXR Bass DI+, it gets that clanky grit that helps cut through the mix, but I also really dig the Darkglass B7K Ultra.  I’m still in love with Ashdown amps, which have been a huge part of my tone for my whole career, but sometimes you have to deal with backline so I’ve been bringing tube preamp pedals like the Twonotes LeBass or the EBS Valve Drive in case the house amp needs some help.

Who would you say were your biggest influences for how you approach the bass?

That’s hard to say because I still feel like I’m constantly learning, finding styles and techniques that I wish I were more comfortable with.  I grew up listening to a lot of Police and Genesis, so Sting and Michael Rutherford are big early influences.  Modern players that excite me are peers/friends of mine like Tim Lefebvre and Joe Lester (from Intronaut).  Still one of my biggest influences is Meshell Ndegeocello; she has an approach to the instrument that is so unique and “rule-breaking” that just excites me so much.  She treats the role of the bass like a vocalist, playing over bar lines and out of time in such a melodic but undeniably groovy way.

You seem to be a regular at The Baked Potato and jam and collaborate with a multitude of different artists there, what is so special about that venue and how did you hook with being a regular there?

Jamie Kime, the guitarist from the Zappa band, hosts the Monday Night Jam at the Baked Potato and when we started working together he basically demanded I come down and check it out.  Just by going there a lot and hanging in addition to playing I got to know guitarist John Ziegler, who got me to play with his band VOLTO!, for a little while with Danny Carey (from Tool) on drums, as well as meeting other great musicians I wound up working with later on.  The Potato is really such a unique place, especially in an increasingly musician-unfriendly town like LA.  They not only specialize in having incredibly talented players there every night of the week, but they also treat the musicians really fairly and usually let them play all night, instead of the 37 minute set you get at other clubs.

What is your best piece of road advice?

Know how to take care of yourself, both physically and mentally.  Playing music is usually a very small percentage of tour life; most of your time is spent hanging out in dressing rooms, airports, tour bus lounges, etc.  Everyone has different ways of fighting the discomfort and boredom of touring, it’s important to be able to hang and party with people while still staying healthy, but also to know how to keep to yourself and use your free time productively.

What is your best piece of music business advice for young musicians?

Be adaptable.  I’ve been a “professional” musician for 15 years, and if you think about how many enormous changes the music industry has gone through in that time it’s jaw dropping.  Whether it’s iTunes, YouTube, or Spotify, anyone who tries to stick to the “old ways” of making money while playing music has pretty much been left in the dust.  There are days when I wish I understood internet marketing a lot more than I do; there’s always some aspect of this business that you could be better at.

GTO played SXSW this year, what other plans for the future are in store for GTO?

With a band like GTO it’s a bit of a scheduling nightmare since we all have other big projects in our lives.  But, whenever we get together we just have such a blast both playing and hanging out that I’m sure we’ll do more together in the future.  I’m so immensely proud of how the album came out, so I really do hope we do more!

Any other big plans for 2017?

Well Generation Axe is going to Asia in April, and there are some other things in the works with some of my other projects, including the band Legend of the Seagullmen (which also has Brent on guitar as well as Danny Carey on drums), so it looks like I’ll (hopefully) be keeping busy!

Pete is accepting students for both skype and in-person lessons. Visit online at petegriffin.com

Bass Videos

Artist Update With Mark Egan, Cross Currents

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Artist Update With Mark Egan, Cross Currents

I am sure many of you are very familiar with Mark Egan as we have been following him and his music for many years now. The last time we chatted was in 2020.

Mark teamed up with drummer Shawn Pelton and guitarist Shane Theriot to produce a new album, “Cross Currents” released on March 8th, 2024. I have been listening to this album in its entirety and it is simply superb (See my review).

Now, I am excited to hear about this project from Mark himself and share this conversation with our bass community in Bass Musician Magazine.

Photo courtesy of Mark Egan

Visit Online:

markegan.com
markegan.bandcamp.com
Apple Music
Amazon Music

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Interview With By the Thousands Bassist Adam Sullivan

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Interview With By the Thousands Bassist Adam Sullivan

Bassist Adam Sullivan…

Hailing from Minnesota since 2012, By the Thousands has produced some serious Technical Metal/Deathcore music. Following their recent EP “The Decent”s release, I have the great opportunity to chat with bassist Adam Sullivan.

Join me as we hear about Adam’s musical Journey, his Influences, how he gets his sound, and the band’s plans for the future

Photo, Laura Baker

Follow On Social

IG &FB @bythethousands
YTB @BytheThousands

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Gear News: Bergantino Welcomes Marc Brownstein to Their Family of Artists

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bassist marc browstein

Bergantino Welcomes Marc Brownstein to Their Family of Artists

Bergantino Shares: The innovative bassist/sonic explorer/DJ Marc Brownstein discusses his life of touring with Disco Biscuits, the current tour with the new album “Revolution in Motion, and more!

By Holly Bergantino

Marc Brownstein is the king of “Trance-Fusion” – a subgenre that his band Disco Biscuits has been in the center of for the past two decades. As a founding member of the band from their days at UPenn, Marc has quite the experience under his belt, and each tour has gotten more and more exciting. Disco Biscuits is currently on tour with their new album Revolution in Motion, a full multimedia experience accompanied by a 25-minute animated film that tells a story of intergalactic travelers finding their way on Earth. 

D. J. Brownie! What made you want to be a musician and start playing bass and who drew you to it? 

I was drawn to music after John Lennon was assassinated. I was raised in NYC and the city was just going crazy. I was 7 years old at the time and my thought was, wow why is everyone freaking out so much, this guy must be really special. And so I started to check the Beatles out and that was the beginning of my journey with music.  

A question from one of your fans and fellow bass players Karina Rykman: “How do you keep your bubble of positivity intact and thriving”?

Well it’s funny she should ask. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the run of positivity we are experiencing now began right at the beginning of tour at the beginning of January 2023 when we had Karina opening for us for a week. I can say that her positive energy on tour definitely left its mark on the rest of our tour. Some people are so naturally happy and positive that it leaves you feeling that way, sometimes permanently! 

Besides the bass guitar, what other instruments do you play? 

I dabble with piano, guitar, and I can make my way around a drum kit if I get into it for a few weeks. I’ve played flute and saxophone as well at different times. I also play the double bass. But I would say Piano is my second instrument at this point. I play everyday. 

What is your favorite (and least favorite) thing about touring? 

The best part of touring is the 4 hours on stage with the band. But also getting to visit so many great places all of the time. That’s the silver lining.  The only thing I don’t love about touring is missing my family. 

Tell us about your first music teacher. What lesson did you learn from this person and still use today? 

My first music teacher, Mrs. Koslov, 2nd grade, I just was at her funeral a few weeks ago. I eventually became best friends with Mrs Koslov’s son and we stayed in touch for my whole life. She taught me a lot but really she was the one who gave me the courage to perform. My first public performance ever was a piano version of Eleanor Rigby. 

What was the first bass you had? 

This is tough. I think I had a standard Ibanez jazz style bass first. Within a year or two I got an American Fender Jazz bass. 

What are the basses you have and use now? 

My main bass is an Elrick 5 string by Rob Elrick. I also have a Q5 Modulus and an Alembic 5 as well. Oteil (Burbridge) sent me a Roscoe custom 6 during the Pandemic that I like to play. I also have a Sire Marcus Miller, a newer American Fender Jazz bass, a custom Ibanez SDGR, an Ibanez BTB and an Elrick 5 string Fretless bass which is my main bass at home. 

Who were the musicians who inspired you and what qualities do you admire about them? 

I was deeply influenced by Phish when I discovered them in college. I admired their ability to mesh jazz, classical and rock Improvisational styles. I was very inspired by classic jazz musicians. Miles. Monk. Coltrane. Dexter Gordon. Cannonball Adderly. Mingus. This is the generation of musicians that laid the groundwork for what we do now. 

You studied and started the band Disco Biscuits at UPenn. Tell us more about the origins. 

The band just sort of linked up in the quad (dormitory) and we started to set up our gear and jam for fun. Within a short time I realized the guys I was playing with were really talented and so I applied to the New School for jazz and went and spent a year crash coursing music at a high level so I could return to Penn and start a band with them. 

You have a new album “Revolution in Motion,” that you’re currently touring on. How is it going? 

The tour has been amazing. It’s one of the best tours we ever had in our career. We sold out more than half of the shows and are receiving really great feedback across the country. 

I watched the video on YT for Revolution in Motion. The Choreography, production, color, cartoon characters, and theme were so much fun. Space aliens and psychedelic art, pop ups like a comic book, and you in your alien jump suit with your baseball cap were amazing. Loved! How was this collaborated?  

We have a co-writer on this project named Joey friedman. He conceived of the concept for the album and he had a very specific vision for what the visuals would look like. He spent hours and hours with the animators (Blunt Action) and the AI animator (Todd Kushnir) working through each iteration to make it come to life in the way that it was conceived. 

How would you describe the music you create for Disco Biscuits? 

We always hoped that the music we created would be the weirdest and craziest music of all time but we describe it as Trance-Fusion, which was a name that was drawn from jazz-fusion, the mixing of jazz with rock and roll instruments. We found our own sound by mixing trance music with rock and roll instruments, hence the genre title. It was renamed jamtronica many years later by the folks over at SiriusXM who started a radio show called the Jamtronica show to highlight acts from our scene. I was the host of that show for the first 3 years. 

Describe the creative process when you write new music. 

These days the creative process is a team effort. Usually we start by combing through improvisational sections of music from the tours to see if we can find any melodies or chord structures that are song worthy. When we find it we bring it into our DAW (ableton) and creating a grid. This is easy for us because we often play to a time clock on stage. From there we start building out the structures of the new piece of music while Joey and maybe me or Aron or Jon will start working on some lyrical concepts. Within an hour or two we start to record some of these initial lyrics and melodies and Jon usually starts to adapt them and tweak them to make them comfortable for him to sing. Usually within a few hours we are able to walk away with a very advanced demo of a new song. It’s been an extremely fruitful experience that has left us with albums worth of the best material we’ve had in decades. 

The lighting for your shows is amazing. Who does the lighting design work and choreography for the tours? 

Our new LD is known as Herm, but his name is Alex. We know him as Herm though. He came to us from the band Twiddle at the beginning of this year and has totally revitalized the visual elements of the stage show. He’s a really great fit and we feel grateful to have been linked up with such a massive talent. It was luck and timing and some might call it fate. 

How would your bandmates describe you? 

My bandmates would probably describe me as energetic and talkative and headstrong but also they might notice that I’ve become really good at going with the flow and backing their creative instincts. They may further describe me as anxious and nervous but may also notice that these elements have been remediated of recent. Mostly I think they would describe me as loyal and dedicated. 

How did you find Bergantino Audio systems? 

I was first introduced to it by Ed Grasmeyer who I know as Mike Gordon’s tech in Burlington. I was playing a show at Nectars and needed a backline and Ed came and set me up with the ForteHP2 and I was blown away by the tone. I then noticed Karina Rykman was using Bergantino as well and that’s when I started to think I needed to get in contact with the company. Karina was opening for the Biscuits on Boston and that’s where I had the chance to demo the forte hp2 in the context of the biscuits stage show. I haven’t looked back since that night. 

Tell us about your experience with the Forté HP2 on the tour? 

There are so many things that I can say about it but the most notable is that I’m not struggling to hear the frequencies that I want to hear on stage anymore. I used to have to boost the bass everywhere. In an EQ pedal, on the preamp on the actual bass. But every time you add a little of those low frequencies in those other places you risk degrading the tone of the signal. With the Forte HP2 there is a punch button that gives me exactly the frequency I’m looking for. 100 hz. 4 db. It’s perfect. 

Did you think Jim talked too much when you met him in Boston? 

I will never notice when someone talks too much because chances are I’m out talking them. 

What’s your process for dealing with performance anxiety? 

I used to self-medicate for this purpose but I was recently in touch with a psychiatrist who has helped me regulate my own chemical imbalances and I have found that my performance anxiety isn’t really an issue when I have the proper amount of dopamine in the system! 

Imagine that you’re at a party and it’s a little stale. What’s the “party trick” (or hidden talent) that you’d bust out to liven the place up? 

Before the app existed I was known as a real life fruit ninja. I take a big knife and people throw fruit from across the room and I chop it in half in mid-air. It’s not the safest party trick anymore because I lost vision in my right eye a few years ago and I’m not as accurate as I used to be! 

What hobbies do you have outside of music? 

I love sports. I love reading. I love word games. I love gardening. I love hiking/running/moving. My biggest hobby was snowboarding for many years but I’ve grown injury prone and stay off the mountain these days. 

What is the most trouble you ever got into? 

Well, I managed to stay out of trouble until college. But before weed was legalized I had a series of run-ins with the law and spent a night in the clink in Amherst Mass during my freshman year fraternity pledge trip. Luckily this isn’t an issue anymore for those of us who don’t drink or smoke cigarettes but prefer a little of the wacky tabacky to cool down. 

What is the message you would give to your fans? 

Well I give them so many messages all the time but the most important one that I try to remember to keep constant is a message of gratitude. Thank you so much for sticking with us through thick and thin, through ups and downs, for decades now you have allowed us to live our dreams and have the most blessed lives possible. 

How do you feel social media has impacted your music? 

Social media is a double edged sword. It has allowed us to create a strong community where everyone feels like a family but for someone like me who gets addicted to things easily, I really have to be vigilant with practice and writing and other aspects of my life not to spend the whole day scrolling and wasting the time away. 

What is your favorite song of all time? 

Right now my favorite song of all time is probably a short and beautiful little ditty by Labi Siffre called Bless the Telephone. I would suggest everyone take the 1:29 to listen to it and feel the bliss. 

What did I miss for a question that you would like to share? 

Bass players don’t really get to play solo shows, at least not my style of bass, so I’ve had to learn how to DJ in order to perform by myself at times and I would suggest coming out to see a DJ Brownie show at some point. 

Last one! Describe your perfect meal! 

I love to eat great meals. I’m partial to Asian foods but the perfect meal to me is one slice of pizza from Freddie and Peppers on 72nd and Amsterdam in NYC. PERFECTION. 

Follow Marc Brownstein:
Instagram: @marcbrownstein
X (formerly Twitter): @marc_brownstein
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/marcbrownstein4
www.discobiscuits.com

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Interview With Bassist Curly Hendo

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Interview Wity Bassist Curly Hendo

Bassist Curly Hendo…

Hailing from Sydney, Australia, bassist Curly Hendo has been super busy. Starting with dance from a young age, Curly took up bass shortly after and has been going strong ever since. She has collaborated with numerous acts worldwide and is an in-demand session/touring bassist and musical director.

Join me as we learn about Curly’s musical journey, how she gets her sound, and her plans for a very bright future.

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Artist Update With Bassist Derek Frank

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Artist Update With Bassist Derek Frank

Bassist Derek Frank…

Many of you will remember the last time I chatted with Derek Frank was back in 2017. The main thing that impressed me was how busy Derek was and how he juggled playing with many huge acts.

Now, I am happy to hear that Derek launched a new album last March titled “Origin Story” where he digs deep into his roots and pays homage to Pittsburg.

Join me as we get caught up after all these years and hear the details about the new album, how Derek gets his sound, and his plans for the future.

Photo, Stephen Bradley

Visit Online:

www.derekfrank.com
www.instagram.com/derekfrankbass
www.youtube.com/derekfrankbass
www.facebook.com/derekfrankbass

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