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BASS 2 BASS with FREEKBASS – Mike Gordon

Welcome to our debut edition of ‘BASS 2 BASS with FREEKBASS’!

Each month, I will be interviewing a different bassist who is making a strong mark in the low-end community and bending the rules of our favorite instrument. As a fellow bass player, I plan to ask questions that interest me from a FreekPerspective and bring each guest on a-bit-of-a Funky journey of their bassMind.

For this debut article, I am very excited to have one of the most revolutionary bassists out there, Mike Gordon from Phish and his own band.

Mike is a visionary when it comes to bass playing, music making, and his artistic outlook. To me, he is kind of the Andy Warhol of the bass-world. On top of that, he is a good friend, who I always enjoy spending time with. I hope you enjoy this monthly column for Bass Musician Magazine, and please share any of your ideas or questions for future articles at twitter.com/freekbass , or facebook.com/FreekbassMusic.

Funk On! – Freekbass

FREEKBASS – What is the one bass effect pedal you would bring with you if you were to be part of a exploration crew to Mars and why that one?

MIKE GORDON – It’s very expected to bring a synth pedal on any Mars expedition, and that’s why I’d like to take a different route. I’d like to bring my Ibanez flanger. That way I get a little bit of comfortable swimming on a trip that honestly could cause some motion sickness and home sicknesses. Insert hyphens as needed. That comfortable swimming also evens out and thickens the low end in a very soothing way, I find. And this could be nice, since it’s rumored that there are no hot baths with lavender bath salts on Mars, probably what any bassist would seek after such a long trip, or even before the trip home.

FB – Do you use the same bass rig for Phish shows and Mike Gordon Band shows, and can you tell us a bit about it?

MG – Great question. The rigs have been similar but not the same, and my aim this past year has been to make them almost exactly the same. Allow me to expound, starting now: 3 2 1 go. Whelp, because my band likes to keep the stage sleek and hide the gear behind screens, it’s been a nice chance to have smaller gear, and not too much of it. Whereas with Phish there’s plenty of room, and more time each night for Mike Burns to set up lots of extra pedals and racks of gear. So I’ve had more extra units just to try, or ones that have lasted the years just for one good sound. The Eventide rack units, etc., have been controlled by a Bradshaw system on Phish tour, whereas I’ve used a small Eventide H9 on my tour. The larger Taurus bass pedal reissue is condensed to a 12-step midi controller pedal and rack-mounted Moog sound module when I go out with Craig and the boys. The Lovetone by Meatball, as one final example, has been replaced by a small, dark MXR envelope filter when Craig, me, and the boys hit the road. The basic amp/speaker system with software control has been the same for both tours, though I’m using in ear (feelin’ a hepyhen there?) monitors and rumble pads with Craig et. al, which helps when the speakers are pushed so far back behind the screens. Okay, now flash-foward to this year. For both bands, I’ve made the speaker system more symmetrical, replacing the lowest Meyer 800 cab with two 900s, doubling up the modified 500s, but removing the unmodified one, and doubling the Melodie (sp?) treble speakers. This is a work in progress, and could change of course! And I got rid of a ton of the extra gear that was hanging out on Phish tour – I even (Marie) “Kondoed” the fight bell! And now the new model of Eventide, the 9000, is being programmed by Mike Burns to be the workhorse for both bands. See, one of my biggest reasons to try to create one rig for both bands is that i (no need to capitalize) want to have less gear and learn to use it better – stay on top of my learning (and experimenting!) curves. That’s why I stand on the rumble pads for Phish, even though I don’t need to turn them on with the speakers closer – because I want the entire experience to be as similar as possible, even if I get teased for being too tall seeming! We have a long way to go dialing it in, and it will never be quite the same with the speaker positioning and the use of in ear monitors, but I think the intentions are good, and I’m enjoying the process! Hi.

FB – What funk song would you have liked to have been at the recording session for?

MG – Sex Machine, maybe? The crazy and wonderful El Buho (Gary Gazaway would be the aka) one time handed me a bass and said, “I brought this for you, Mike. Bootsy played this bass on Sex Machine.” And I told him that was so nice, but that it should be appreciated by more people and he should send it to the Rock and Roll hall of fame or somewhere like that? The Funk And Easy Listening Bass Guitar Hall Of Fame? However, in reality I can’t listen to songs I’ve heard over 2000 times, so I should choose a different one. Express Yourself – that’s my choice. Can we call that funk, or do we have to call it, say, Soul? Let’s call it a Bulgarian wedding dirge, and call it a day.

FB – What superhero would make the best bassist (and why)?

MG – I think Flash Gordon. Here’s my reasoning: I’ve never read or watched any Flash Gordon stuff (though I have read some Reid Flemming, World’s Toughest Milkman). But I’m theorizing that he has the same last name as myself (I’m not saying I’m the best bassist, since I know peoples’ grandmothers who can funk out better than me). And even the Flash stuff – I know it was a guitarist I played with of notable note, but it also conjures images of the flashbars we used to shove on our instant cameras back in caveman times. So I’m going on name only. Actually let’s switch to Superman. Even the flying alone is very bassy in my experience, though I suppose one could argue that most Superheros fly. Still, though.

FB – Do different colors that you wear, make you play differently? And what is your favorite color when playing bass?

MG – I’m subconsciously aware of the clothing choices I’ve made, for better or worse, while playing. Now that’s bad grammar. Because the ambiguity lies in whether the “better or worse” refers to the colors or the fact that that happens. Alas, I digress. I love bright neon colors. I bet Mono Neon does, too. Does anyone have his number? I’d like to text him, not like become friends, but just an occasional text. Alas, I redigress. Anyway, counterintuitively, I’m just going to say there have been nights I’ve worn a fairly muted light grey get-up that fits just right, and the breeze is billowing by my temples, and I really feel ready to soar. I feel neutral enough to let G-d bring the neon, in whatever way she pleases. Amen.

Opening Photo, Tony Arrasmith
Other Photos, Rene Huemer

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