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Oskar Cartaya, Raíces En Puerto Rico – August 2018 Anniversary Issue



One of the high points of my youth was growing up in Puerto Rico.

The beautiful scenery, rich culture, fantastic music, delicious food, and the happiest, warmest, loyal people you can find are the source of many fond memories. Needless to say, when I have a chance to converse with a Puerto Rican bassist, we have so much in common that it is like a family reunion!

Oskar Cartaya arrived on the island a year before I did and we never crossed paths.

Ironically at one point I lived about a half a mile away from where he was studying music. It took a Winter NAMM show for us to actually meet in person.

Oskar’s keen focus, hard work and down to earth personality have put him on stage with some of the biggest names in Latin music, along with heavy hitters from all over the world. Join me as we learn his story and how this superb musician draws on his roots from the island to be the successful bassist and a credit to a great people.

Oskar Cartaya Interview

Oskar Cartaya Videos

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Photo Credits

  • Cover Photo, Magda Cartaya
  • Aguilar Photos, Jay Denes
  • Standing B&W Photo, Jaime Garcia
  • Old San Juan Photos, Conrado Pastrano
  • Other photos used in video, Carlos Rodgarman
  • All other Photos courtesy of Oscar Cartaya







Yolanda Charles, MBE – July 2024



Yolanda Charles

By David C. Gross & Tom Semioli 

“I’ve never heard of Yolanda Charles…who is she?” 

Such was the retort I received from my Notes From An Artist co-host and dear friend David C. Gross upon my suggestion that we invite Yolanda Charles, one of my favorite players, on our podcast – radio show. Two bass players with a seven-year age gap can sometimes forge a world of difference, which our listeners detect from time to time from our on-air banter. 

Yolanda Charles - Bass Musician Magazine - July 2024

Cover Photo Courtesy, Giuliano E at Graphik Vision

I have learned much from my partnership with my elder David – who looks, thinks, dresses, and acts much younger than I do- such as; the hidden merits of the six-string bass, why Mile Davis’ Bitches Brew is indeed monumental on levels I was not aware of, and the best entrees at Mamoun’s Falafel on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. 

Oftentimes I educate my homie on the players who came to prominence in the 1990s – the decade wherein Brit Pop was my writer’s beat. I received my review copy of Paul Weller’s Live Wood album in late ’94 or thereabouts. First move every bass player makes when receiving said product is to check the bass credits! I didn’t recognize the name.  A compendium of performances in support of the Mod Father’s then latest Wild Wood album, I’d never heard of Yolanda Charles either. I became a fan after the first listen – the combination of rock and roll and soul never fails to captivate this writer. 

Yolanda is that rarest of players who fortifies her bandleader and simultaneously makes you aware of the instrument regardless of the supportive role. Dig Ms. Charles cutting through the beautiful bombast of Robbie Williams’ Live at Knebworth (2003). Her work with Squeeze on The Knowledge (2017) rendered a new coat of (ph)funky paint on the pop purveyances of Messrs. Chris Difford and Glen Tilbrook. Nice work if you can get it, and she does.

My choice Yolanda deep tracks/albums make for a fine playlist: Aztec Camera “Sun” (Frestonia), Deep MO Funk in the Third Quarter, Marcella Detroit “Boy” (Feeler), Mick Jagger & Dave Stewart “Old Habits Die Hard” (Alfie soundtrack), Mamayo The Game, Workshy “Finding The Feeling” (Coast), B.B. King & Friends with Roger Daltrey “Never Make Your Move Too Soon” (B.B. King & Friends 80), Misty Oldland “A Fair Affair”(Supernatural),  Project pH “No ID,” “It’s Not a New Thing,” and “Hey Now,” to cite a select few. Get to work!

So, who is Yolanda Charles? 

She’s a bassist, composer, bandleader (Yolanda Charles’ Project pH, pH Instra-Mentals), band member (Jimmy Summerville, Hans Zimmer…), educator/mentor (East London Artist & Music, Institute of Contemporary Music Performance, Royal Northern College of Music, Trinity Laban Music Conservatory), entrepreneur, musical collaborator, poetess, novice gardener, and recording and performing artist. Impressed? In 2020 Yolanda Charles was awarded the MBE – Member of the Most Excellent Order of The British Empire for her services as a musician in the United Kingdom.  Bass Guitar Magazine crowned Yolanda as the “High Priestess of Funk.” 

Here are select excerpts from our conversation which can be heard in its entirety on Notes From An Artist podcast available on Apple, Amazon, BuzzSprout, Spotify, and wherever podcasts are podded! 

TS: David, we have royalty in our presence, tell us how you came to be recognized with an MBE.

YC: I love it, it’s great. I accepted the award – you’re asked first if you would like the award, and some people do turn it down because of the political connotations. At the time, I was confused as to why I was being given the award, because I thought those sorts of notices are given for public deeds and charities – and I’m not known for any of those things. I have had quiet activities that no one would know about that help local communities…and someone thought that I should receive an MBE! I guess they did a search on me, to see what my presence is like online – to see if there are any associations or incriminations… and I came up clean man! (laughter)

TS: Your solo project works under the moniker of pH – as in ‘pH’ which is the measure of acidity in water. Explain the origins… 

YC: The name is representative of balance. There are lots of ways you can view it. I was looking to spell ‘funk’ but I wanted to avoid the ‘f-u-n-k’ spelling. And I like people to wonder what the ‘PH’ stands for. It also gives me material to find titles for my songs. For example, we have a track called ‘Acid Test’ and stuff like that. 

DCG: Back in 1961 George Russell had a tune and an album titled Stratusphunk – and he used the ‘ph’ spelling. 

TS: Let’s talk about Project pH – a jazz, funk, soul, fusion collective which includes Nick Linnik (guitar), Hamish Balfour (keyboards), Nicholas Py (drums/percussion); and vocalists Paris Ruel, Adeola Shyllon, and Carmen Olivia, among others. You’ve supported more than a few notable bandleaders – tell us about your approach.

YC: Creatively, I write a lot of the material. I explain to the band how I want it to go and I welcome their input. I don’t usually bring in a finished piece of music because I think if you’re going to work with a band its important to have their voice in the sound. 

Sometimes we have a little bit of a tussle over chord changes – but we don’t fight over the basslines! 

DCG: The chord change doesn’t change until the bass player makes it so! 

YC: That’s right! (laughter) Recently I wrote a ballad on the bass, when I compose that way, I write the bass and the top line and I give them space for a bit of color. It’s fun to hear their ears take them, sometimes it’s not always where mine are and I like that. I get a fresh angle on something I thought I knew really well. 

I think my reputation is a bit of a ‘whip-cracker.’ I’ve worked in the pop world, and everything in that realm is restricted. Sometimes you have musical directors that are listening to every little bass fill. And often they don’t want to do anything apart from what is on the record. If you play one extra note you’ll get a stern look, and if the keyboard player slightly changes the harmony – put the 6th in or even worse does an extension, a 9th or 13th they get fired. 

I’m more lenient than that, we’re freer because pH is jazz-flavored. I make the band work on various sections of a composition until I’m happy. Sometimes I like the music to be really tight, other times I want the ebb and flow – so I use my body and my bass to conduct. 

DCG: In a way, the bass player should be the band leader and the musical director – we are connecting the rhythm and the harmony. 

YC: Absolutely. The role of the bass player in a band is the connection between harmony and rhythm. There is also something about the character of a bass player. Some of it is funny, like in ribbing someone or ‘taking the piss’ as we say in England. In a real sense, I think your character attracts you to the qualities of the instrument.  

Or maybe, your character takes on the qualities of the instrument. Maybe all those guitar hero ego monsters – if they exist – get turned into that by the nature of the instrument! Who knows which comes first? 

TS: When you were working for Paul Weller, he gave you ‘advice’ on how to position your bass – how did you adjust to the adjustment? 

YC: I held the bass way up here (Yolanda positions her instrument beneath her neck, bow-tie fashion) because it’s easier to slap. When you drop the instrument down, you have to alter your technique. 

I had to agree to be in Paul ‘The Modfather’s space with my 1980s tastes because he was definitely more of a 1960s guy. Luckily, I didn’t have to slap on the job – imagine doing that on a Paul Weller gig! (laughter)

TS: I would love to do that!  

DCG: And you’d get fired!

YC: Check me out, I was 22. I was a kid. It was quite intimidating. I think I would handle how to hold my bass and position the instrument differently today! 

DCG: On that topic, Billy Sheehan said to me, and it made more sense than anything; when you are sitting down and practicing, why would you change that because when you stand up – you have to physically reevaluate all of what you learned sitting down. Sit in position, get a piece of leather, cut it and that’s all you need. 

TS: You use different muscles when you change positions.   

YC: Yes. I also recommend my students to use a guitar footstool. Get the bass in the space that is right for you, sit with your knees akimbo, put the bass where it should be if you were standing, then stand up, and see where the bass should be on your body…  

It’s a very personal thing. Getting back to Paul, that’s the thing about session work – it involves letting go of certain aspects of your character and personality. You have to allow yourself to be molded into the thing they want you to be. That goes for being a musician – stylistically. Even looks to a certain extent. 

I had complaints from one female artist I worked for. From her management, not from her, that the most flattering colors that I wore … were banned! (laughter) 

(Yolanda imitates artists management) ‘Er, could you just wear a sackcloth, please? And perhaps a bin back over your head?’ (hysterical laughter)

That’s why I advise my students ‘are you sure you want to be a session musician? Have you got the character for it?’ You have to be a team player and respect that you’re not the boss, it is a hierarchal situation. It is not a level playing field. You are hired help.  

You have to kind of do things that people ask of friends. But you are also being paid a salary. And it’s really confusing. And you can get it wrong, and you can get fired because you overstepped. 

You have to understand the politics of this stuff. Also, are you an argumentative type of person? Do you push back because you were told something by someone who does not have the best personal skills in the world and who might be making a demand of you in an unfriendly voice or using language you don’t like.

You sign a contract and the contract does not have a clause that reads ‘if they don’t speak to me nicely, I can leave…’ 

TS: The era of specialization on one instrument is over – how do you guide your students?

YC: They know. It’s funny, I made my first record in 2002, and I did it college industry style then. I created a website, and my own record label, but I did it with a few of the tools we have now. And I understood at that point I needed to have those skills. If you just make a record – you’ll be like all the musicians who think they’ve made a record because it never leaves the hard drive, or they press it and it’s in boxes for years and years. 

I was determined to not have that happen to me. I kept the costs down by using friends’ studios, we produced ourselves… I was able to pay my musicians because I was touring with other artists. I pressed a thousand copies and I used the disc as a business card – like the way people use the web now. 

Yes, it is entertainment for others and a way to make money by selling them at gigs, but for a musician, and other creatives, it is the way we tell people who we are, and what we do, and let them know that we are available. 

Some people see social media as showing off, or being a narcissist, but it’s to let people know we are here, that we exist, and that we are available. 

If you look at the artists I’ve worked with in my career, they are all in the kind of pop-rock territory. If I just stayed in funk and soul, I would have had a narrower career. 

I was in a session with Dave Stewart, and he said, ‘so who is Yolanda?’ And I said ‘What do you mean?’ I told him I made a record and he asked me to bring it in. And I would never do that, some people are always hustling. A few days later he told me that he’d listened to it and he gave me a bunch of pointers. We were just talking as musicians. 

When I first handed it to him, he said ‘Oh, so you’re not just a bass player…’  And I didn’t really understand what that meant at the time. He perceived it as me being an all-around musician as opposed to an instrumentalist purely. He saw that I could arrange, write, record and I could organize. Later, he hired me as a musical director for his band. It was because I had proof that I could do all these things. That qualified me, as well as the fact that we got along in the studio. 

Making records is important if you want to put yourself out there – you can’t expect people to know who you are unless you tell them. How you tell them about yourself isn’t bragging. The gig with Dave Stewart led directly to me being in Hans Zimmer’s band. To me it’s kind of like chance and luck, however the opportunities for chance and luck only arrive if you create the conditions. 

DCG: And now you can just give them a thumb drive! 

YC: Yes, or you can simply send a link and they can see everything you do. People waste their time on social media showing, ‘This is what I had for breakfast… these are my new shoes…’ Don’t bother with that stuff, you don’t know who is looking. And most times they’re not looking at where you bought your shoes, they are looking at what you write, what do you sound like, what are your lyrics, what is your creative space? 

TS: How do you mentor for success? 

YC: People ask me for advice in the form of ‘Can you help me.’ My first response is ‘What do you want? What do you want to achieve? What are you actually looking for?’ And very few can answer that question straight away. Is it ‘you’ with a top-paying gig? Is it ‘you’ with a certain amount of recognition? Or sales? Or followers? Is it about making the best record you could have made? Look at where the compromise has to happen. 

Maybe the best music you can make does not equate with a huge following. You have to hone it down to what is your actual core. You can’t have it all. If you want to make a great record, what does that entail? 

If you really like atonal music – okay. But I’ve got something to tell you about that. Large followings do not come from artists who create atonal music! If you really want to make a record that’s a bit out there – okay! But you have to let go of some other ideas you have at what success looks like. 

True success might mean you make records that don’t sell a lot. But you’ve identified what your actual real ambition is. And once that is acknowledged, once that is said out loud, strangely what happens is that kind of peace settles in. ‘Oh, I get it! I know what I want now!’ 

With that approach, it’s easier to not be envious of a kid who can play five chords and has ten million followers. You don’t have to bother with that because this thing you’ve created fully focuses your attention. So, what’s going on ‘out there’ does not really matter anymore. 

A big part of happiness is really knowing what you want. 

For all things Yolanda Charles, check out

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



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

Follw Online

FB@ Real2Reelstudios
IG @ Willturpin
IG @collectivesoul

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Guy Pratt, Not Your Average Guy – May 2024 Issue



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…


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 

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Bass Videos

Brian Bromberg, Paying Tribute to Scott LaFaro – April 2024



Brian Bromberg, Paying Tribute to Scott LaFaro, April 2024 - Header

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

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FB @BrianBrombergBassist

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



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 – 
from new album Skin In The Game

The Toughest Girl In Town – 
from new album Skin In The Game

Fair Warning – –
from the self-titled album The Immediate Family

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