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Chuck Rainey, Still Loving Bass After All These Years – Bass Musician Magazine, March 2018 Issue

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It was a true honor to do an interview with the legendary Chuck Rainey, a very kind and gentle soul!

In this interview, Chuck shares stories from the early days, as well as current projects.

Image: Bass is the Xotic XPJ-1T

What initially got you interested in playing bass?

I was playing guitar and was in a band that had three guitar players, and I was playing single note patterns on the guitar. Finally one night the drummer said, “Why don’t you go get one of those new electric basses?” I had lowered my strings down, my E string to D, and so on, and that’s how I got into playing bass. I was actually going to be a guitar player, but in that particular band, the lead player’s wife played rhythm and then I played the single note patterns on my guitar and sang background vocals behind him when he sang.

What was the experience like touring with King Curtis and opening for the Beatles?

Well, it was exceptional and I think the largest audience I had been around was when I was working with Jackie Wilson, he would draw about 1800 to 2500 people, which was a lot of people in those days, especially compared to the club dates I was playing where you don’t have that many people. It was very exciting, and the band, well, we didn’t know who the Beatles were because we were not listening to and playing that kind of music. We were playing pop music; we just weren’t listening to the radio. We didn’t get a chance to hear them till maybe the seventh or eighth concert. I forget where we were but I want to think it was The Cow Palace in San Francisco.  There were so many people there that we couldn’t get to our dressing room and had to remain in a certain area off stage where they had monitors and we listened to the Beatles.

We had a private plane and the whole tour was on that plane. Every city we went to, we had police escorts from the airport to the hotel and of course, everyone had escorts to the venue from the hotel. I remember our first concert was at Shea Stadium in New York, and the sound check at around 2 PM had about 50,000 people there. We had a really good time and of course I enjoyed listening to the Beatles once I heard them; they were a very good vocal ensemble, who sang and played very well. George Harrison and John Lennon were always on our part of the plane playing cards, talking and stuff like that. Paul and Ringo were kind of snobbish and they did not bother at all to come back and visit with anybody on the plane, they just stayed in their part of the plane.

The tour was a lot of fun and ended in Los Angeles after which our band ended up staying an extra week because we had a gig in Hollywood. After we returned to New York and it was all over I wanted to go back some day and live in California and I ultimately did a few years later.

There is a rumor about how the bass was performed on Steely Dan’s song Peg; can you elaborate a little bit on that?

Well, Walter, Donald, and Gary, what they did on every song in Steely Dan was they would always listen for a drum track they could keep. So the rhythm section would be sitting in the room playing but they would be listening only to the drummer. When they felt that they had a good drum track, then the drummer could leave and the rest of the rhythm section would play to the drum track.  Jeff Porcaro usually played drums first and if they had another drummer come in, they would listen to his track on a lot of those songs, up to Aja. Jeff was a really good friend and we had done a lot of sessions together outside of Steely Dan. Warner Brothers had signed Toto and they didn’t want Jeff to be associated with Steely Dan because both groups were with Warner Brothers.  So, while we were playing to the track on Peg, Jeff wanted me to slap the bass on the bridge of the song. We had done a lot of other sessions together and I did slap on some of those things, but I was not known to be a slap player like Louis Johnson.

A lot of people didn’t like slap bass because it was so tinny. Louis Johnson at that time was the known slapper and Billy Preston had many hit records with Louis playing. Louis was a good friend of mine, except that I did not care for the sound of his bass because it didn’t sound like a bass, it had so much treble. I came up with upright players and listened to them slap the bass and it just had the certain sound to it, not like the same slap technique on the electric bass. I played a Fender with flat wound strings and slapping it would sound more like a slap on an upright bass. I’m pretty sure that Donald and Walter were listening to all the things going on at times, and as I mentioned earlier, Billy Preston had several hit records right in a row and Louis Johnson was playing the bass, except that the bass sounded a little bit tinny, so I think that’s why Donald didn’t want me to slap.

Jeff and I had played together on many other sessions other than Steely Dan where I did slap the bass and every time we got to the bridge, Jeff would ask me to play it with slap, and I would say, “No”. Jeff said since they are only listening to my track and not listening to you why not go ahead and do it. So since we had to play it again maybe 3 or 4 more times, I agreed and placed the sound partitions up around me because I had a live amp in the room and slapped on the bridge turning away from the control room view so they couldn’t see me doing it.

After the break the rest of the band, bass, guitar, and the piano player, began to overdub the song. We had been playing the song for about an hour as they were listening to the drums and I knew now that they were listening to the bass. So when I recorded the bass part, I didn’t slap when I got to the bridge and after the second or third time, Donald said, “It sounds so much different than it did when you were playing with Jeff.” It does sometimes happen that way once you take away one element of an instrument in the rhythm section and begin to play it; it is going to sound a little bit different.

Jeff was in the control room and he said, “Well, he was slapping it”, which they didn’t know I was doing, so Donald said, “Go ahead and do what you were doing when Jeff was playing.” Finally it worked out to where it sounded better. All in all, that’s basically how that went. We did two tunes a day from twelve to six on all projects, some of the songs we would do over and over and over, and I think they were trying to sample me, which is impossible because I don’t play with the same touch constantly the same way. If they had told me they were sampling me, I would probably have made more of an effort to play specifically all the time.

What was it like in the 1970’s being one of New York City’s first call session bassists?

Well, it’s always great to know that you are a first call player; of course in a place like New York, you aren’t the only one. There were two or three other first call players and it took a while for me to get there, I didn’t just jump on the scene and become one of the first call players, it took about a year or maybe two years to arrive there. I was always highly recommended because of coming out of King Curtis’ band, most of the guys out of his band ended up being studio players, because he was a successful studio player himself, he did all of the ‘Yackity’ sax solos with the Coasters, etc. so playing with King Curtis and first doing a lot of demo sessions did help get me started.

Also once you get to the place where you are doing union stuff and making scale money, everybody wants to work with you or hire you. In the rhythm section, I was basically always working with some of the same people all of the time. It was of course great knowing that I was one of the first call players, making money, but it was also great that I was playing on a lot of records with excellent musicians that were very diverse in style and the music was successful.

Can you tell us a little bit about Rhythm Intensive?

John Anthony Martinez and I formed Rhythm Intensive and we are now in our fourth year. We started the company, basically for education. We use both my textbooks and his. What we have been doing is going to Universities and Art Magnum Schools doing seminars and clinics. We wrote a book last year around this time called, “The Tune of Success”, it’s an industry book and talks about a lot of things like ego, stress, and ideas that most young people today do not know about or consider, like how to conduct yourself socially or professionally in certain situations.

We are endorsed by a lot of people in this book, and the book also talks about overcoming obstacles, building your own personal brand, handling the business that you are engaged in, and things like that, the industry landscape. We’re doing pretty well, having gone to Spain and London, and we plan on going to South America this year. This April, we’ll be going to Ohio to do a summit there for the weekend and we are very excited about that.

You have done many great recordings with many great artists over the years and I’m sure there are a lot of great stories, is there one in particular that stands out for you? 

Well, everything stands out and I am totally amazed at what I can remember, but it’s just difficult to pinpoint at this particular moment something that stands out. I’ve done so much and I have been very fortunate and totally blessed in being able to work on so many different projects as well as touring. I was with King Curtis for three years, Aretha Franklin for four years, and Roberta Flack for three years and I also experienced a year tenure with Harry Bellefonte. It was steady work at that time and Aretha did not work that much while Roberta worked all the time on weekends. While playing in those three bands we never, ever had a bad performance in concert.

The music was always great and what I related to, as a musician, was we never had a bad concert. With King Curtis, as soon as things started going the way he didn’t think they should go, he would cut the song off and stop the song. I was very fortunate to play in those bands with those leaders but of course, before I got into those bands, I played in a lot of bands that were not very good. With Roberta Flack, and Aretha Franklin we never had a bad concert, although we maybe had some songs that didn’t go the way they would have liked them to go; good musicians were on board, everything always worked out well because the basic crew on the road with her also did their recordings.

One thing I will say in talking about recording dates is not so much a funny story but it is a good quick story.  I did two projects with Rickie Lee Jones, who on the surface was not that easy to get along with and in those days she was not nice at all. Aside from all of that, I never had a problem with her because I liked her music; she was an excellent songwriter. One rule of thumb in the recording industry is the leader/artist should always know who their musicians are, even though they may not actually be the one hiring them for recording sessions.

For a session with Rickie Lee Jones, Andy Newmark didn’t present himself professionally and was replaced by Jeff Porcaro.  Rickie did not know who any of us were, nor our musical history. Jeff Porcaro came the next day and Rickie Lee Jones kept referring to him as drummer and basically did not talk to him in a professional manner.  At that time Jeff was a high profile player in Hollywood.

Rickie’s music sometimes sped up and slowed down, and sometimes you would have to wait for her to nod for downbeat time in continuing to play the song. Jeff was from a very disciplined musical family and was very experienced. Rickie unnecessarily kept saying to him you got to watch me, do this and then do that and then do this, etc. No one treats Jeff Porcaro that way. So after the first morning session when we took a break for lunch, as he was leaving, someone said, “Jeff, we’ll see you later”, and he said “Yeah, much later”. When we came back from lunch there was a drumstick sticking out of each drumhead and of course he didn’t come back. She should have definitely known who Jeff Porcaro was and not kept referring to him as ‘drummer’. The very next day Steve Gadd came in; it’s almost like it happened yesterday.

You have been quite an influence on many bassists, what advice can you give to them?

Well, it’s really hard to give advice because you don’t really know the activities of a young player and what their environment is, what their social environment is, or how they are as a person. What I do say, and I’ve always made it a point to be very clear in that I am really saying what I feel; I love music and I love to play the bass. I played several instruments before I played the bass. I think that that love perpetuated me into a lot of situations that I would have not gotten myself into. You can call it God, the Universe, other musicians, the sounds emitted from nature, etc. However it can be said, I am influenced by everything I see and hear to musically press on.  I think because of my love for playing the instrument, love for music, and having a very exceptional interest in people, in just seeing how people are, what they do, what they say, what I think they should have said, what they didn’t say, is my influence to lay down the bass.

So I guess that what I am trying to say is that anything that you love, gives you back the same love. If you love to do something, if you love your wife, your children, pet, girlfriend, then they share the love back. So I kind of think that when you love to do something, you do it all the time for nothing. Because you love to play. At the beginning I played all the time, whether I got paid or not, of course that got kind of old after a while. If another player wants any advice from me, I would say number one, play as much as you can in all kinds of situations.

If you are young and you just started playing then of course you are not going to be in the best band. Very few players get into an excellent band when they first start playing. Playing in any band helps the player to understand what to do and what not to do and when to do it. A lot of people helped me at the very beginning of my playing with their advice, so I would basically advise every player to play as much as they can. Every time you play, something goes on in the brain to set you up for the future. There are a lot of good musicians that can’t play, they know theory, they watch bands, and they think they are a player but they are not. Most of us are not good players when we first start playing, but as time goes by, the more we play, the better we get.

What does the future hold?

Waking up in the morning, cereal and my coffee, going for a walk. I still put a band together every now and then, and I still play a lot, or as much as I can. I am very much involved in education and spend a lot of time with www.rhythmintensive.com, in which I am a co-founder. It is very much my main focus at this time in my continuing career in music.

Music education has always been a large part of my career and as time is counting down toward retirement as a working (for money) player in organized music, I plan to devote as much energy as I can toward education with my partners John Anthony Martinez and Jane Cheng. In saying that, I still love to play the bass and will always look forward to playing the instrument in professional and organized situations.

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Will Turpin, Celebrating Collective Souls 30th Anniversary – June 2024

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Will Turpin, Celebrating Collective Souls 30th Anniversary - June 2024

Will Turpin, Celebrating Collective Souls 30th Anniversary – June 2024…

Will Turpin - Bass Musician Magazine - June 2024

I am sure many of you will remember my chat with Will Turpin in 2018 when he released his solo album Serengeti Drivers.

We had a chance to get together again as his band, Collective Soul, is celebrating their 30th anniversary and releasing their new album “Here to Eternity”.

Join me as we get caught up on the new album and all of Collective Soul’s projects, the details about his very own Real To Reel Studios, how Will gets his sound, and all the cool plans and projects going on soon.

Here is Will Turpin!

Photos: Cover, Derek Alldritt | Video Photos, Derek Alldritt, Lee Clower, Brian Collins

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Guy Pratt, Not Your Average Guy – May 2024 Issue

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Guy Pratt, Not Your Average Guy - May 2024 Issue

Guy Pratt, Not Your Average Guy – May 2024 Issue

For me, the bass is like this poor dutiful, loyal kind of wife.  I go off and have my affairs and run about town, then I always come crawling back to her… Guy Pratt

By David C. Gross and Tom Semioli

Photo Courtesy – Cover Photo, Paul Mac Manus | Promo, Tarquin Gotch

Most rock and pop devotees know the individual names, likenesses, and other “intimate” details of their beloved ensembles.

Everyone has/had their favorite Beatle… darling Rolling Stone… preferred Led Zeppelin, their chosen who’s in the Who – etcetera. 

And even in those instances, the enigmatic lead singer and swaggering lead guitarist garner the most consideration in the public eye. Aspiring drummers, keyboardists, and bassists will naturally gravitate to their said instrumentalists. Civilians could care less.   

In the case of the singular artist, it’s all about the headliner, and quite frankly, that’s just how the nature of rock celebrity works. It’s the name on the ticket that counts. 

On rare occasions, the second banana gets peeled: Mick Ronson spidering beside David Bowie, Steve Stevens rebel yelling in the service of Billy Idol, Scotty Moore twangin’ with Elvis Presley, and Steve Vai shredding alongside David Lee Roth, to cite a select small number. “Very few are chosen and even fewer still are called…” to quote Warren Zevon who piled his craft with guitarist Waddy Wachtel in tow. 

Rarer still are the sideman/session bass players who somehow catch the slightest edge of any spotlight. Motown legend James Jamerson Jr. was not recognized until long after his passing by way of the 2002 Paul Justman documentary Standing In The Shadows of Motown which was a surprising box-office success and consequently spurred on similar films such as The Wrecking Crew (2008) Muscle Shoals (2013). Even then, these studio cats’ time in the sunset as soon as the film credits rolled. 

Other bassists in the strictly accompaniment arena catch a notable wave by the nature of their unique contributions to international hit songs – witness Pino Palladino with Paul Young (“Every Time You Go Away”). Studio ace Will Lee (for whom David C. Gross oft subbed), gesticulating in proximity to charismatic bandleader Paul Shaffer, was visible to millions in his four decades with Late Night with David Letterman, and The Late Show with David Letterman. Rarified air indeed. 

Which brings us to Guy Allen Pratt. Born in 1962 in a place called Lambeth London, Pratt came to the instrument in the funky 1970s when bass, thanks to improvements in audio and recording technology, could actually be heard on the radio and on hi-fi record players of the day. Rather than prattle on about Pratt’s formative years, we highly recommend his hysterical autobiography My Bass and Other Animals (2007) Orion books.   

David and I love talking to our record collection on Notes From An Artist. Guy not only talks to his record recollection on his podcast Rockonteurs with co-host Gary Kemp of Spandau Ballet fame but he’s played with them! You (lovable) bastard!

Guy’s credits on stage and/or in the studio span David Gilmour, Roger Waters-less Pink Floyd, Roxy Music, Bryan Ferry, Madonna, Michael Jackson, Tom Jones, Iggy Pop, Icehouse (of which he was a band member), Kristy MacColl, Robert Palmer, Gary Moore, Debbie Harry, Johnny Marr, Robbie Robertson, Peter Cetera, Tears for Fears, David Coverdale- Jimmy Page, All Saints, The Orb, and Nick Mason’s Saucerful of Secrets, among others. Impressed, you should be!

If you’re a listener to Notes From An Artist and Rockonteurs – and you should be – you will immediately recognize the simpatico synergy between the two shows. David and I don’t have the piles of platinum discs that Guy and Gary have earned over the years, but we’ve been there and done that – the tours, sessions, the travel, the good deals, the mostly bad deals…

Hence our interview with Guy was not the typical linear podcast that one normally experiences with the obligatory introduction, tastefully imbedded product plug and follow-up, anecdotes, and farewell until we meet again.

Nope. Not even close. From the get-go, our discussion was enjoyably out of control. Akin to caged animals let free in the wilderness, the three of us came out chomping at the bit – with unbridled enthusiasm, one-upmanship, blotto bravado, and many joyful verbal collisions (“taking the piss” if you will). 

Much like the popular Jerry Seinfeld TV series Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee – note that Guy also performs stand-up (or sit-down) comedy – we were chuffed to talk shop and then some sans the usual (and necessary) constraints of the radio/podcast format. 

You have been warned. Here are excerpts from our free for all! 

NFAA TOM: Let me introduce our audience member to Guy … 

Pratt abruptly interrupts the prolog when he spots David’s custom Ken Bebensee six-string bass replete with a pinkish hue complimented by neon pink DR strings behind Gross at the onset of our Zoom chat.  

GP: Whoa, what is that? It looks like some sort of psychedelic Ampeg bass!  

NFAA DAVID: No! This is my six-string bass designed by a guy named Ken Bebensee with obligatory pink strings. You know, it takes a tough man to wear pink! 

NFAA TOM: Non-binary strings? 

GP: I don’t know that it does! Pink was a big 1950s color. Black and pink in particular. It was a big punk thing too. The Clash wore black and pink. Elvis wore black and pink. 

NFAA TOM: Good observation Guy. 

NFAA DAVID: The strings are great on stage because they glow under the lights which is very cool…

NFAA TOM: …much like the bass player. 

GP: Tom..that’s a bass behind you as well (Pratt eyes Tom’s 1981 Steinberger XL – placed strategically to compliment David’s instrument) 

NFAA TOM: Yes I set this out for our Johnny Marr interview …I know he’s a big fan of Steinberger instruments.

 NFAA DAVID: It used to have a headstock…

GP: Johnny is definitely not a fan of those basses..

NFAA TOM: Yes I knew that factoid from reading your book My Bass and Other Animals. I’m using irony here…

GP: That’s why I bought ‘Betsy’ (“Betsy” is Guy’s nom de plume for his 1964 Fender Jazz Bass once owned by John Entwistle. Pratt purchased this instrument at the behest of The Smiths guitarist whose penchant for traditional instruments is well known. Marr felt the modish graphite Steinberger – which Pratt preferred – was not suitable for his post-Smiths aesthetic.) 

NFAA TOM: You started Rockonteurs podcast with Gary Kemp during Covid lockdown, circa 2020, yes?

GP: This is the funny thing, we started it before Covid. The idea came to us being on the tour bus with the Saucers (Nick Mason’s Saucerful of Secrets band). I needed to while away the hours on our first European tour. In those days the buses still had DVD players. I brought along a box set of The Old Grey Whistle Test (a popular British television show which aired from 1971 -2018 featuring performances and interviews of music artists hosted by Bob Harris). 

With Nick, I watched hours of 1970s rock TV. And Nick would be sharing all sorts of great personal stories about the people who were on the show. I had the idea of doing a show asking the people who were there – the artists. Before we could broadcast it we figured we’d get ten episodes together. 

Gary and I went through our address books and we managed to get ten mates who agreed to be on the show.  Back then, you had to go to a studio in London, you had to have a whole set up and everything like that. But then lockdown happened and suddenly the world went Zoom! You could have shit audio, and most important is that you could speak to anyone anywhere at any time. So we started before, but it was the lockdown that made us. How long have you guys been going?

NFAA TOM: David and I started off as The Bass Guitar Channel during lockdown three years ago (2020), and then we thought why the hell are we just talking to bass players? 

NFAA DAVID: Boring old farts! 

GP: Right! 

NFAA TOM: We were mutual fans of each other’s websites – David has the Bass Guitar Channel, and I host the website and video series Know Your Bass Player. Of course, even under the banner of Notes From An Artist – we do favor bassists. Our guests include Bill Wyman who has been on the show twice, we’ve had Ron Carter on a few times. Rudy Sarzo (Ozzy Osbourne, Whitesnake, Quite Riot), Gerry McAvoy from Rory Gallagher, Benny Rietveld from Santana and Miles Davis, Jim Fielder from Blood Sweat & Tears, Harvey Brooks (Bob Dylan, Miles Davis)…

We’ve actually shared quite a few guests with Rockonteurs – Richard Thompson, Ian Anderson (Jethro Tull), Colin Blunstone (The Zombies), Steve Hackett (Genesis). David and I consider ourselves the American Rockonteurs – or Mockonteurs! 

NFAA DAVID: You’ve played with Johnny Marr, David Coverdale, Nick Mason…

NFAA TOM: Many times, when David and I listen to podcasts hosted by non-musicians, we feel this angst, frustration, and even homicidal rage because the interviewers haven’t lived the life of a musician…I feel that we do which are peer-to-peer interviews, are very special. 

NFAA DAVID: It’s very niche, but it can appeal to a broader audience. 

GP: Yeah, yeah, yeah! It all depends on how you do it. Gary and I love to geek out. But this is the thing that I learned from years of doing my stand-up show, and that is you can’t appeal to just bass players. Half the guys have brought their missus. And they don’t want to be there. So you’ve got to do it in a way that makes sense for people who don’t really know or even care.  

NFAA DAVID: One thing we learned very early on – it was the first time we had Ron Carter as a guest – we did not bring up Miles Davis. And you can understand that. He’s going strong in his 80s and five years of his life were with Miles. He’s done so many other things besides Miles…

 GP: That’s hip, that’s cool! That’s seventy-five years’ worth!

NFAA DAVID: …so forty minutes into the interview… in his head, he must be going ‘no Miles? No Miles?’ We ended up getting Miles stories that no one had gotten before. Same thing with Bill Wyman. We didn’t mention the Rolling Stones once!

NFAA TOM: We read in your book how you made your bones as a bass player. Bernard Edwards noted, “That kid has a vibe!” Robert Palmer called you “the kid with the riffs!”

GP: Make that the kid with the ‘riff’ I just had one riff! 

NFAA TOM: We’ve had some of your peers on the show such as bassists Lee Sklar (James Taylor, Jackson Brown, “The Section”), and Rudy Sarzo, and they never intended to be studio musicians – they preferred being in bands. What about you?

GP: It wasn’t really a proper profession. You got into rock and roll and you were in a band. It didn’t really exist. There were names you saw on Steely Dan records as part of some sort of unattainable Olympus. I wanted to play with people whose music I loved. And if I could help them make music, that would be even better. 

I think I had it too easy for too long. Then I got to the wrong side of thirty and thought ‘What’s my manifesto?’ I’ve gone on and ticked off other boxes.

For me, the bass is like this poor dutiful loyal kind of wife, while I go off and have my affairs and run about town and then always come crawling back to her…

NFAA: Guy, you came to prominence in the 1980s – the decade dominated by electric bass! 

GP: It was the best decade to be a bass player! Absolutely! In the world I was in – which was the current cool music of its time – everything from Bryan Ferry to Scritti Politti or whatever in British music – it was no longer about guitar. Guitar was small. Guitar played polite minor 7th chords – unless you were Johnny Marr. In fact – guitar was Johnny Marr! 

It wasn’t David Gilmour or Jimmy Page. It was all about slapping. And also the bass seemed to be really responding well to technology. With instruments such as the Steinberger… 

NFAA TOM: Your contemporaries were Pino Palladino, Paul Denman from Sadem, Norman Watt-Roy, Darryl Jones…Neil Jason 

GP: Don’t forget Tony Levin!

NFAA TOM: Yes, you shared many a gig with Levin. 

NFAA TOM: Talk about the influence of Mark King of Level 42 with his slap style on British players. 

GP: Oh God yeah, he was a hero. There is footage on YouTube of my first production rehearsals with Pink Floyd when I first started playing with them in 1987. I have no idea how someone could sneak around with a camera back then – they were so huge. We were in a 747 airplane maintenance hanger at Toronto Airport – and you can hear Gary Wallace and me playing ‘Love Games.’ That’s what we did.

NFAA TOM: And you had to hold the bass high on the body – like a bow tie! 

GP: Holding the bass that was a ‘New Romantic’ thing – which was done just to be as un-rock and roll as you could be. Literally holding the instrument under your chin…

When I look at that first Floyd tour – my bass is positioned a little higher than it is now.

NFAA TOM: Ergonomically – playing the bass too high is a problem – because you could tip over! Plus it’s a strain on your shoulders and upper arm.  As we age, we develop pot bellies, so we need to lower the bass. 

GP: It was quite funny with David (Gilmour) because he is much more svelte now… I would sneak to have a go on David’s guitar – I’d put it on and it would be down to my knees! 

NFAA DAVID: On the topic of bass positioning – what I learned Billy Sheehan was to sit down with your instrument in your lap– get comfortable, then stand up and take a simple piece of leather and measure – and that’s your position!

GP: Brilliant! That’s way too grown-up and sensible! 

NFAA DAVID: I could never understand Dee Dee Ramone playing with his bass near his ankles!

GP: But it looked fantastic! At the end of the day, are we musicians, or are we playing rock and roll?

NFAA TOM: There is actually an ergonomic reason why he did that. When you position your bass in the middle of your body – as most players do – you are using your forearm muscles. To play rapid eighth or sixteenth notes you need to use your wrist.  Hence if you position the bass low beneath the hip – you work your wrist muscles. 

GP: You’re absolutely right! Remember when the Boss Chorus came along and made everyone think they could play fretless? I am absolutely guilty of that! (Makes the sound of a chorus pedal) Rrrrrrrrr. Rrrrrrrr. Rrrrrr. Is that an E or an F? Who knows there’s a lot of chorus on it!

NFAA DAVID: It does not matter! 

David C. Gross shows off his modified Tony Franklin fretless Fender bass aptly dubbed “The Franklin – Stein.” Gross had the instrument finished distressed, swapped out the Fender pick-ups for Lindy Fralin P-J configuration pups, and also replaced the Tony Franklin signature back plate. David notes that he shuts down the J bridge pick-up when playing the instrument. Gross notes that since he posted this bass on social media, Tony Franklin – a constant presence on Instagram and Facebook – has not spoken to him! 

GP: I’m personally baffled by Precision fretless basses. To me, the Jazz seems to be the obvious fretless model because it needs a ‘bite’ with a pickup near the bridge. The person who would disagree with me is David Gilmour – who is a very fine fretless player. I think he used a Charvel fretless on ‘Hey You’ (Pink Floyd The Wall 1979). 

NFAA DAVID: With me, it’s more comparable to my six-string as I prefer a big neck.  Particularly a P neck with a C shape is the right one for me. Tony certainly got the neck right!

GP: For the Saucerful tours I play basses I’m not familiar with! The one thing I do with that band is try to be authentic. There’s no point in trying to copy those parts – in a lot of instances you can’t even hear them since they were mixed low on the original records most of the time. From ’67 to ’70 Roger played a Rickenbacker then in ’70 he switched to the Fender Precision. So I play Rickenbackers and Precisions which are not my first choice. 

With the Precision I know it’s not the instrument – it’s me! Precisions are fabulous but it’s like certain Italian knitwear – I love it on other people! 

As for the Rickenbacker – I just can’t really play it. But they make me play great for this gig because I kind of need to have one hand tied behind my back. And I have to play with a pick – so there’s no danger of me getting funky anywhere! 

NFAA DAVID: I remember when Magical Mystery Tour (The Beatles, 1967) first came out. Those photos of Paul with a Rickenbacker looked great! 

GP: Yes, it is a fantastic-looking instrument… but I never understood why it became a ‘prog rock’ bass with Chris Squire. Because it’s not a hi-fi-sounding instrument. 

Getting back to Precisions – I think it all comes down to ‘What was the first bass you picked up!’ The first bass I played was a jazz-style instrument…

Pratt proceeds to jump out of his skin and show off the instrument that began his life’s journey ‘My dad gave it to me …it’s a Grant Japanese model– it was sunburst – I can never figure out why the black color followed the contour of the neck – then when I shaved it down I discovered it was plywood!’ 

GP: It’s that jazz profile which is all I’ve ever wanted…  Then when I got Betsy – that his the most perfect profile neck I’ve ever come across. 

NFAA TOM: And that’s the profile on your signature Betsy Bass available at The Bass Centre 

Pratt hoists a Bass Center Betsy in his favorite hue – burgundy mist. 

GP: It’s the best-selling bass they’ve ever had! I used this Bass Centre bass at a cancer charity gig the other week (November 2023) with Andy Taylor and Robert Plant. So how’s this for a ‘box tick’ – I’m one of the few people, apart from John Paul Jones to have played “Black Dog” with Jimmy Page, and Robert Plant! 

NFAA TOM: The big I am! Let’s talk about Betsy – you added a Badass bridge…

GP: The Badass is an option… I use the cheap one! The secret to that bass is the EMG pickups. People don’t usually put EMG pickups into an old bass…it has the lovely, settled, resonant wood. Stick active EMGs into an old bass and…boom! It’s fantastic! 

NFAA TOM: David, you can compliment the burgundy mist Betsy bass with your signature neon pink strings!  

Pratt proudly displays the original Betsy bass guitar once owned by John Entwistle of The Who. 

GP: Here’s the old girl!

NFAA TOM: Is that the “My Generation” bass?

GP: No, John never played this bass. Owning a bass that belonged to John Entwistle is like owning a pair of shoes that belonged to Imelda Marcos!

NFAA DAVID: John owned a very conceivable bass in several colors.

GP: The rumor I heard was that Fender made three full sets of Burgundy Mist guitars in 1964. And John owned the full set- a Precision, Jazz, Telecaster, Stratocaster, Jazz Master – he had everything. Which was priceless, but he had to sell them all in a hurry. So I purchased this bass through the legendary guitar tech Alan Rogan. 

The conversation drifts on to the punk era which Pratt experienced as an impressionable teenager. 

NFAA TOM: We didn’t get the Sex Pistols until late in their career and then of course, the band broke up in the USA following a show in Texas. That band must have had an impact on a young Guy Pratt. 

GP: Oh totally! If you discovered rock and roll at that point like I did, it made an impact. But the stuff I loved were the bands that survived. I loved The Who – Pete stayed totally cool throughout punk – no one was going to touch Pete! Twelve years before punk, Pete was smashing guitars on stage. No one was ever going to do anything as punk rock as that!

I liked Bruce Springsteen who became great friends with Joe Strummer. There was this thing that there were five bands – they were these people who were rich and over thirty years old, which we couldn’t relate to as teenagers. 

What was so brilliant about punk – and it’s the reason why the 1980s were so brilliant – was the ‘do it yourself’ aspect of punk. In England at the time the attitude was if you don’t like a band – start your own band. If you don’t like what is in the newspapers – start your own newspaper! 

When The Buzzcocks heard about the Sex Pistols they booked them to play at the Lesser Free Trade Hall in Manchester. They played and there were about fourteen people at the show. And those fourteen people were Morrissey, Johnny Marr, Mick Hucknell, Tony Wilson, Steven Morris, Ian Curtis…basically the 1980s!

NFAA DAVID: I’m surprised that The Damned never broke in this country. They were another “fake” punk band that was brilliant.

GP: I know what you mean. They were like The Monkees of punk. And I say that as someone who adored The Monkees when I was a kid. 

NFAA TOM: Talking about your history of session work… when we are in the studio oft times we are required to either read a lead sheet or a written out note-for-note chart. According to your book, Madonna asked up to create a bassline that made your (anatomy deleted) hard!

GP: She was terrifying!  

NFAA TOM: In your book, you detail how you forgot that you played the iconic bassline to “Like A Prayer” which bolstered your career. 

GP: Right! I had a vague recollection of that session. It’s weird because I remember all the other stuff. I was bloody scared! I know I’ve played with Pink Floyd at this point, and other major artists but I still have this terrible imposter syndrome. I’m basically a West London punk rocker, I shouldn’t really be doing any of this! 

NFAA TOM: But you’re “the kid with the riffs!

GP: That’s “riff” again – singular! I only had one! I used it up a long time ago. 

It was a band session, and the players were amazing; Jonathan Moffat (drums), Bruce Gaitsch (guitar)¸ Jai Winding (keyboards), Patrick Leonard (keyboards), Bill Bottrell (engineer) – incredible.

And Madonna was so good – she was so ‘on it.’ She sang a guide vocal. She’d give me notes – and they were proper notes. They weren’t like ‘Can you make it more purple?’ She gave me understandable musical things that she wanted me to do. Or not do. 

“Like a Prayer” was just me, her, Pat and Bill. I don’t know why I was there. I was thinking because they have the synth on it – that’s all they’d need. There might not have been a plan to put a bass on it. I was in there to simply double some of the verse stuff. I was playing every fourth note or something. 

At the end, it was one of those ‘let go nuts’ takes. ‘We’ve got the take we need, let’s just do one more for fun.’ I don’t remember it because I wasn’t taking it seriously. As if I could do that!

Sometime later she invited me down to the mix – I’d come back to California to do the Toy Matinee album and I went down to the studio and she said (in Pratt’s impeccable Madonna Ciccone voice appropriation) ‘Come and sit next to me!’ 

There was this last really loud play through and I was absolutely stunned. It is an amazing song. The hooks, the arrangement, everything! On that track, there is always something to keep you interested. On that song, you’re always thinking … What now, what now?’ 

Then the bass thing happened at the end. ‘That sounds like me but it obviously isn’t…’ because that’s way above my pay grade! Pino gets to do that! Tony Levin gets to do that. Mark King gets to do that. 

Guy Pratt does not get to do that! Which is why I said to Madonna ‘That is the greatest record you’ve ever made… who played bass on it?’ 

(Pratt in Madonna mode) ‘You, dummy!!!!!’

NFAA DAVID: I think your Michael Jackson story is more bizarre. 

GP: The funniest thing about that story is when I got the call to do it. It was a period of my life that was so insane. I’d done the Toy Matinee record, and I had to leave before the end of making it to fly back to Europe to do a Pink Floyd tour – we went to Moscow and did that amazing gig in Venice. Then I had to fly straight back to Los Angeles to start the Robbie Robertson album (1987). While I was doing Robbie’s album – I did other songs for Madonna such as “Hanky Panky.” One day in the studio I get a call from engineer Bill Bottrell. 

“Hey Guy, what are you doing?” I responded ‘Well, I’m working with Robbie.’ Bottrell: “I want you to work on this Michael Jackson song…” I said ‘Okay.’ “Can you be here by six?” Pratt: ‘We don’t usually finish until 6… I’ll have to ask permission!’ 

So I went to Robbie ‘Listen, is there any chance I can go early tonight?’  Robertson: “Oh why?” Pratt: ‘I’ve been asked to do a Michael Jackson session!’ And Robbie blurted out “What am I supposed to say to that!” 

Pratt to Bottrell: ‘Why me Bill?” 

Bottrell: “Michael heard ‘Like A Prayer’ and he wants that!” 

So I thought ‘Great, he obviously wants full balls-out Octave pedal madness! 

I turned up at the studio and Michael had supposedly just left. And they play the track (Pratt sings) ‘What about sunlight…’ And I think to myself ‘Really!? What the hell am I supposed to do with this?’ 

Luckily Steve Ferrone came in. However was in the worst possible key – Ab! With an Octave pedal that is not good. As a rule, you don’t go below D. In fact, D is the optimum key. Now with modern technology, you can do anything, though I don’t like any of the new Octave pedals unless I’m doing a sub-swell. 

For me, it was the Boss OC-2.  Boss was actually talking about doing a Guy Pratt edition of the pedal. 

NFAA DAVID: Take that Pino! 

GP: Yeah! Look I nicked it from him – I make no bones about it. “Tear Your Playhouse Down” and “Give Blood” are the best examples of Pino with the OC -2. 

NFAA TOM: When I first heard those tracks, I had no idea they were pedals.

GP: Right because at the time there was no internet. When I first heard “Tear Your Playhouse Down,” I thought ‘it sounds like a synth but it obviously isn’t… but how did I find out it was an Octave pedal? Who do I ask? I didn’t know Pino!’ 

Do I go up to people and (yell) ‘Tell me tell me’ and leave a trail of bodies all over London?  But I did find out…

NFAA TOM: Guy as you are an album artist primarily, we ask all of our guests who work in that format the question “Is the album format still relevant in the age of streaming music?” What say you?

GP: No they are not. Albums were the length they were because Deutsche Grammophon worked out that it was the length of one movement of a symphony. Since that was the format, that’s what record players were made to. So we got used to the album format. Which then became this completely invented format where track listing was everything. From track one on side one, to track one on side two…what is the last track on side two? 

Basically, it became a play in two acts. Then the compact disc came along, and that concept was gone. There is no end of side one…there is no end of side two… 

Any sort of restriction that is imposed upon you – especially as an artist, is a good thing. That’s why plays are like plays, and films are like films.

It’s good to have these invented laws. Now, there is kind of no point! If you want an album to be 400 songs, it can. That’s why I find it interesting – that amongst a lot of the kids – their preferred format is the EP. Four songs. It’s not the tradition of ‘extended play.’ It’s four songs. 

Back in the day, EPs were when artists argued about what was going to be the B side! 

NFAA TOM: Or make an extra dollar off additional songs… 

GP: Right. 

NFAA TOM: Interesting that you mention the term “restriction” because David and I interviewed legendary bassist Jerry Jemmott and asked him that had Jaco Pastorius lived would he have moved on to the extended range bass – five-string, six-string. David and I were convinced that Jaco would have added more strings, yet Jemmott maintains that it is the restrictions of the four-string that made Jaco great.

GP: I don’t think Jaco would have played a six-string. 

NFAA DAVID: When you play an extended range – five or six – and I know you’ve tried that – your left hand tends to move horizontally rather vertically. 

GP: Yes, that’s what Jack Bruce said – and he preferred five-string. But when you think about it the top note on a Jazz bass…

NFAA DAVID: An Eb!

GP: Yes and it’s a note I actually use in a chord at the end of the song “Saucerful of Secrets” with Nick Mason. The point being, that note, why would you need anything higher than that on a bass guitar?

NFAA DAVID: Well, the idea to me was never doing the ‘diarrhea of the hands’ soloing. My brother-in-law was Ian MacDonald – and when he left Foreigner, we started a band. He bought me a Chapman Stick. 

GP: Ah I was about to bring those up!

NFAA DAVID: I wanted to go low, not higher. 

GP: Yes, I get that. But with Jaco’s facility, I don’t think he would have gone there. I don’t think Hendrix would have gone beyond the Fender Stratocaster. Look at David Gilmour. No one has done more to expand the horizons of what a guitar can sound like, but it’s still the black Strat.  

To me, Jaco’s sound is still so space-aged, modern, and high-tech, and it was just him – what else was he going to do? He already had the future in his fingers!

NFAA DAVID: When it comes to Jaco – yes he was a great player, but it all comes down to his compositions. He was a brilliant composer. Just like Charles Mingus. A great bassist, no doubt. But when you think about Mingus, you think about his compositions. 

“Three Views of a Secret,” “Portrait of Tracy,” who, outside of Percy Jones, would have thought of it? 

NFAA TOM: According to Anthony Jackson, with whom David studied…the true bass guitar is a six-string. As we discussed this with another Anthony Jackson disciple, your colleague Dave Swift (Later…with Jools Holland). If you place the electric bass next to an electric guitar and an upright bass, clearly the electric bass is a member of the guitar family. Leo Fender, who focused on the marketing aspect of his business, made the bass four strings to appeal to upright players who were weary of hauling the cumbersome doghouse!

GP: I had a Fender six-string bass, but I thought of it more as a baritone guitar. Wasn’t it interesting in The Beatles Get Back film that they had one laying around the studio and that’s what John Lennon picks up to play bass tracks. 

NFAA DAVID: Jack Bruce was playing a Fender six-string with Cream! How did he do it?

GP: Right! So let’s go back to the Chapman Stick – which was everywhere in the 1980s. Alphonso Johnson, Tony Levin…and I was thinking ‘Oh my God I’m going to have to learn this thing…’ So I nearly bought one. And I thought I just did those four years in my bedroom; I don’t know if I could go back and do them again. Because that’s what it would take. Then I realized – especially Tony – that he’s only playing two strings on it! 

NFAA DAVID: That’s absolutely right! You know what made me decide to get rid of the Stick…aside from how many years it would take to master it? I didn’t want to stand up with the Goddamn thing stuck in my pants!

GP: Exactly! Years back Tony Levin told me that he transcribed Stravinsky’s “Firebird” for the Stick. And I thought ‘We’ll I was never gonna do that!’ 

NFAA TOM: What’s on Guy Pratt’s bucket list?

GP: The boxes keep getting ticked! There’s only one person I would really like to play with. But… it’s a total Catch-22. 

I would love, love, love to do something with Peter Gabriel. But if I do something with Peter Gabriel, that means Tony Levin isn’t doing it – and I always wanted to be kind of… Tony Levin! So I guess I don’t want to play with Peter Gabriel…

More Bass Player interviews are available in an upcoming book: Good Question! Notes From An Artist Interviews… by David C. Gross & Tom Semioli www.NotesFromAnArtist.com 

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Bass Videos

Brian Bromberg, Paying Tribute to Scott LaFaro – April 2024

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Brian Bromberg, Paying Tribute to Scott LaFaro, April 2024…

Brian Bromberg, Paying Tribute to Scott LaFaro, April 2024

Brian Bromberg is one heavy-hitting bass player and I am in awe of his talent as one of the few individuals who is equally proficient on electric and upright bass.

You might remember our conversation back in 2018 when he released his powerhouse Funk album. Brian’s “A Little Driving Music” album is a staple on all our road trips and his Jaco and Jimi Hendrix tribute albums are mind-blowing… and I could go on and on.

Now, Brian has taken on the arduous task of producing an album paying tribute to the late, great, Scott LaFaro. He teamed up with pianist Tom Zink and drummer Charles Ruggiero and Brian delivers a commanding performance on upright. The entire album is a masterpiece and a real treat to listen to track after track.

Join us as Brian shares the details behind this project and more.

Photo, Michel Bocandé

Visit Online

brianbromberg.net
FB @BrianBrombergBassist
YouTube

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Leland Sklar, Over Half a Century of Bass, March 2024

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Leland Sklar, Over Half a Century of Bass, March 2024

We all have enjoyed Leland Sklar’s Bass lines for over half a century.

You might remember that we had him on our cover back in 2017 and did an update when he launched his book “Everybody Loves Me” in 2020. It was exciting to hear that The Immediate Family had got back together in the studio to work on their own music in 2019 and are now up to two albums.

Just last December, Magnolia Pictures released a documentary titled “Immediate Family” where we got a behind-the-scenes look at the massive contributions Danny Kortchmar, Waddy Wachtel, Ross Kunckle, Leland Sklar and Steve Postell have made in countless songs that are the very essence of our daily personal musical soundtracks. Seeing the astronomical roster of performers they have supported over many years is very eye-opening. It is a must-see for any music lover!

Now, I am thrilled to bring you a special chat with Leland Sklar where we go more in-depth into the bass side of his musical journey.

Photos: Header, Rob Shanahan – Cover Photo, Jay Gilbert/Chris Schmitt

Skin In the Game – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QhbnzIrdjJ8 
from new album Skin In The Game

The Toughest Girl In Town – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UVQLZIRfLjU 
from new album Skin In The Game

Fair Warning – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1DN18DYwLsU –
from the self-titled album The Immediate Family

Visit Online

www.immediatefamilyband.com/
www.facebook.com/TheImmedFamily
www.instagram.com/theimmedfamily/

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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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