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Steve Bernal, Mastering the Groove Between Bass and Cello – October 2018 Issue

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Steve Bernal is not only an accomplished bassist and cellist, he is also an avid artist in the world of paintings!

His solo releases are astonishing and he has also performed and worked with such great bands as Arrows To Fire, The Texas Symphony Orchestra, and his latest endeavor with Philip Anselmo, along with being one of the top three solo artists in the Austin area…. and now, for the rest of the story…

Cover Photo, Brian Watkins
Opening Photo, Brian Watkins

What first influenced you to play bass to where you are today, career wise? 

I’m a natural drummer, but when I brought this to the attention of my parents, it was decided that they didn’t want drums in the house. I was nine years old, and by then I was completely certain about who and what I’d be when I grew up. So, I had to choose something else. I considered piano, but having that instrument in the house seemed equally improbable. Then I considered guitar, but there was something about it that didn’t move me; even as a kid I sought the physical sensation that drums or bass have.

On Friday and Saturday nights in Houston we had The Midnight Special, and Don Kirschner’s Rock Concert on late night television. Once I learned this, I’d wait for my parents to fall asleep then sneak back into the living room and turn the TV on, to as low a volume as possible, and watched. I noticed one musician always standing next to the drummer. Asking an uncle, who was an amateur guitarist and the only musician in our family, who that player was, he answered, “He’s playin’ bass. You don’t want to play bass.” I immediately went to my parents and began what became the process of begging for my first bass. After some persistence, they gave in and after shopping through the catalog and lots of daydreaming, I got that first instrument from the Montgomery Ward department store, made by Global. It was summer 1975… I remember it clearly… wish I still had it.

Fast forward 43 years and I’ve learned, experienced, and played myriad styles and sounds at all types of venues and studios all over North America and Europe on electric bass and cello. The new projects with which I’m involved will hopefully expand and inform my experience even further.

Your solo releases are you performing both cello and bass… this may be the chicken or the egg question, but what came first, the cello or the bass, and since you are doing both, what is your writing and recording process?

Photo, Jim Chapin

I didn’t take up cello until 2000, at age 35. It came about during a recording session wherein we wanted strings on a couple of songs, but didn’t quite have the budget to hire pro players. So, I had an idea: I’d rent a cello and figure it out. I’m a fretless specialist, so presumably the scale and technique would be similar. Not quite, though. Of course, it proved to be more difficult than anticipated, but once I had it in my hands, I became determined. After one day playing scales and inventing simple parts to play on the recording, I went in and played. My second day playing cello can be heard on an eponymous record by the band Grand Street Cryers. I then decided to pursue studying cello seriously.

Lessons from local pros, attending an orchestral course at U.T. Austin, and a few years in the cello section at Temple, Texas Symphony Orchestra proved to be challenging and very rewarding towards my general musicianship. I was always a pretty good reader of bass clef notation, but playing in the more formal setting of orchestras focused that skill even more, including tenor and treble clef registers.

Playing a new instrument brought on a flood of new ideas and inspiration. I began writing and recording these ideas fairly soon after getting somewhat more comfortable and familiar with the instrument. Most of my composition ideas originate at the cello, and then my bass playing experience will fill-out the sound, which often leads to more ideas and themes to expand upon further.

Recording-wise, I always like to build tracks from low to high parts… like a good bassist!

I’m currently working on a new record featuring guest players including Hunt Sales, and Kirk Covington on drums, and Bobby Landgraf on guitar, among others. Produced and engineered by Stephen Belans. Lots of layered celli, and some fancy bass playing too!

You are currently with “Arrows to Fire”; can you tell us how this came about and a little bit about the project?

Photo, Alex Johnson

Arrows To Fire is an ongoing recording project put together by a couple of friends who began writing songs a couple years ago and needed a rhythm section. Very straightforward Rock. Fun stuff to play! Our second record “Here We Go” is available online, and we have a YouTube channel, too. I wrote and arranged strings on a song called “See You Around” on the album, performed by the Austin Symphony Orchestra with Maestro Peter Bay conducting. That was a fun session!

You are currently working with Phil Anselmo; can you elaborate on the project and possible touring?

This is a very interesting and exciting new project of Philip’s. Many of his fans may be very surprised at this new sound. He is an evolving and serious artist, and I’m glad to be a part of this recording. I’m playing cello in the band, which features members of a few of his other projects as well. I recorded on twelve songs thus far. The band is called En Minor. We’re anticipating releasing it before the end of this year, then touring next year.

What is your main gear setup?

I have several basses, and I love being able to utilize all the sounds they offer for different situations. The instruments that probably get played the most are a ’74 fretless Fender Precision that I love, a ’78 Rickenbacker 4001, which is my Rock machine, and a matching pair of Fender Precision and Jazz Basses made in 2000. Excellent recording instruments. My cello is a 1955 T.G. Pfretschner from Germany. I play through a variety of GK and/or Ampeg gear. Pedal-wise, I love the L.R. Baggs Stadium Bass D.I., MXR Octave, and Electro-Harmonix Holy Grail Reverb (the ‘verb for cello). I like to keep it simple when it comes to gear.

What advice can you give to any aspiring bassists and cellists?

I love this question. Study and practice are the only way to improve. There is no shortcut. Learn to read notation. It can be intimidating, but the effort to learn it always pays off. The way I did it as a child was to buy songbooks of my favorite records and try to read along as the record played. Eventually, I noticed the patterns. For example, the dotted quarter note rhythm always looks and sounds the same. Learn the Nashville chord chart system. I didn’t really even come into contact with that until about ten years ago. It makes sense, and transposing into different keys is made very easy, provided that you’ve already studied and learned theory and your fingerboard. And, try to absorb and learn as many different styles and genres as you can. Even stuff you might not be attracted to naturally. For example, as a child I noticed that some players use a pick, while others play with fingers. I decided to become equally adept at both. That has proven to be useful for all these years.

Making a living as a professional musician is demanding, complex, and can be hectic. It’s important to try and anticipate any adversity or sudden change in plans or schedules. Being flexible always makes things easier. For example, part of the advantage of having a diverse skill set is being able to play a wedding on cello in the morning, an orchestral rehearsal in the afternoon, a recording session on bass in the evening, and a Rock gig on bass in a club that night. That’s in one day! So, a musical life is rarely boring, and always interesting.

Visit Steve online:

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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Jeff Pilson, Foreigner Low End – January 2024

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Jeff Pilson - Bass Musician Magazine - January 2024

Jeff Pilson, Foreigner Low End – January 2024…

Those of us who were around back in the 70’s remember how certain songs on the radio resonated with us. It turns out that many of these iconic melodies came from Foreigner and they were part of our personal soundtracks! 

After all these years, the band is going as strong as ever with Jeff Pilson firing away on bass midstream into a 2-year farewell tour. 

I am excited to be able to bring you all the details about Jeff’s musical Journey, the farewell tour in progress, how he gets his sound and his plans for the future.

Cover Photo: Krishta Abruzziini / Video Photos: Krishta Abruzzini, Karsten Staiger, Gina Hyams

For more news on FOREIGNER and upcoming Farewell Tour dates, fans can visit:
foreigneronline.com
facebook.com/Foreigner
twitter.com/ForeignerMusic
instagram.com/foreignerlive
youtube.com/user/FWebTeam
Also on FB @officialjeffpilson

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Bass Videos

Rodney O’Quinn, Rockin’ Hard Through the Years – December 2023

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Rodney O'Quinn, Rockin’ Hard Through the Years – December 2023

Interview With Foghat Bassist Rodney O’Quinn…

Rodney O'Quinn - Bass Musician Magazine - December 2023-v2

Many rock fans have enjoyed music by Foghat, who originally formed in London back in 1971.

Over the many decades of playing, the band members have changed, leaving behind only Roger Earl as the only original member. Bassist Rodney O’Quinn left the Pat Travers Band and joined the group in 2015 and has been laying down the low end for this iconic quartet keeping the Foghat legacy alive. With a new album titled “Sonic Mojo” which dropped on November 10th, the band is as busy as ever and there is lots of very tasty music to come.

Join me as we learn of Rodney O’Quinn’s musical journey, how he gets his sound, and his plans for the future.

Photos:
Cover,
Jake Coughlin
Video Thumbnail, Tom Apathy
Photos used in the video: Kerry Quinn, Chuck Lanza, Kim Granger, Kenneth Strohm, Jake Coughlin, Jay Jylika

1st Single from Sonic Mojo – Official “Drivin’ On” 

2nd Single from Sonic Mojo – “She’s a Little Bit of Everything Official Video

 “Road Fever”- California Mid State Fair – Paso Robles, CA – 7-27-22

“Stone Blue” – Rodney O’Quinn Bass/Lead Vocals – Don Odell’s Legends – Woonsocket, R.I – 10/15/22 – The Stadium Theater

The Earl’s Court – Season 2, Episode 7: Funny Guys 

“I Just Want to Make Love to You” – CasinoRama – 6-9-23 

FOGHAT “Somebody’s Been Sleepin’ in My Bed” – Mohegan Sun, Uncasville, CT – 1/28/22

“I Just Want to Make Love to You” – California Mid State Fair – Paso Robles, CA – 7-27-22

Visit Online:

www.foghat.com
www.facebook.com/Foghat
www.twitter.com/FOGHAT
www.instagram.com/foghat_official
www.youtube.com/user/FOGHATMUSIC

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Suzi Quatro, Eternal Powerhouse – November 2023

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Suzi Quatro, Eternal Powerhouse – November 2023

Interview With Bassist Suzi Quatro…

Suzie-Quatro-Bass-Musician-Magazine-November-2023

It is always exciting to have the opportunity to talk to an artist who has been prolific for decades.

Suzi Quatro has been rocking our world since the sixties and has been super-creative as a bassist, musician, actress, singer, songwriter, author, radio show host and so much more. Most recently, Suzi released a new album titled “Face to Face” where she joined forces with KT Tunstall and together they are a force of nature. (See our video with Suzi about the album release)

Join me as we hear about Suzi’s musical journey, her many projects, how she gets her sound and her plans for the future.

Here is Suzi Quatro…

Suzi Quatro & KT Tunstall – “Truth As My Weapon” (Official Music Video)

“Shine A Light” music video (from the upcoming album)

“Bad Moon Rising” music video (from 2022):

Bass-Solo / Live in Prah? 1979

Glyserine Queen / Bass solo – Tampere Finland

Follow Online:

suziquatro.com
IG @suziquatroreal
FB @Suziquatrorocks
TW @Suzi_Quatro

Photos: 
Video – Andrew Whitton
Cover and Header Photo – Courtesy of Suzi Quatro

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Bass Videos

Zach Fowler, Not Just Laying Down the Low End – October 2023

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Zach Fowler, Not Just Laying Down the Low End - October 2023

Zach Fowler, Not Just Laying Down the Low End – October 2023

I have been hearing about Zach Fowler’s bass playing since he was in New Mexico. Now, based out of Nashville, Zach is very busy laying down the low end, acting as musical director, writing songs and producing music. He has been very active doing studio work as well as touring with LoCash.

Join me as we hear about Zach’s journey, how he gets his sound, all the details about his new Lakland bass and his plans for the future.

Here is Zach Fowler!

Photos Credits  – Cover, Allee Visuals / In Video –  Matthew Allen, Max Muehlhausen

Typical, run-of-the-mill, slap happy bass solo taken during LOCASH’s performance at the Suwannee River Jam in Live Oak, Florida on May 4, 2018.  Video was shot by David Lehr.

This was part of a series of acoustic performances filmed at the famous Blackbird Studios in Nashville.

LOCASH performs a song from “The Fighters” album called “Shipwrecked.”  This was filmed not long after I joined LOCASH, and I’m using a Carvin PB5 plugged straight into the board via a Countryman DI.

LOCASH performs “One Big Country Song” at the Grand Ole Opry in May 2022.  

We performed the song along with Opry House Band, and the performance was in conjunction with The Beach Boys’ first performance at the Opry (which explains why we’re wearing leis around our necks). I used one of my two PRS Grainger 5-strings plugged directly into the Opry’s house rig, which is made by Aguilar.

One of only two times that I’ve recorded myself playing bass.  

I arranged John Legend’s “Ordinary People” for solo bass, and used my PRS Gary Grainger 5-string plugged into a Gallien-Krueger PLEX preamp.  I added a little reverb in Logic to give it a little ambience.  I recorded this right after the COVID shutdown happened.  I’m not too big on recording myself playing bass, so this was somewhat of a rarity, but considering my job had shut down, it felt like a good outlet to keep my name on the radar.  There’s a little gratuitous slapping in there, but mostly because I didn’t have an arrangement for the bridge section that I liked, so I just let loose.

During my time in Albuquerque, I was blessed to perform on two albums by a progressive rock trio by the name of Illustrated Man.  

This song is off of their second album, “Zebra Hotel,” and is coincidentally called “Zebra.”  I recorded this song using a Fender 5-string Precision Bass plugged into an Avalon U5 direct box.

I was with a band called The James Douglas Show for eleven years.  

We put out four studio albums, and this track is off the final album we put out called “9.”  The track, called “Can’t Stop,” was written by our guitar player, Jesse Martinez, and produced by Mike Cee.  As is typical with a lot of R&B tracks, I overdubbed a bass track over an already-existing synth bass line.  I used a Carvin JB5 run into an Avalon U5 direct box.

“Kissing a Girl” is a track off of LOCASH’s album, “Brothers.”  

We recorded a live version of the song at a venue in Minnesota during soundcheck.  The video was shot by David Lehr, and the sound was edited and mixed by our production manager at the time, Evan (“Turbo”) Owen.  It was negative 12 degrees outside in February, which explains why most of the people in the band are wearing beanies on their heads.  I used my main road bass on this track, my white PRS Gary Grainger 5-string, plugged into my Gallien-Krueger PLEX preamp, then into a Radial FireFly direct box.  I used a little bit of compression from my Origin Effects Cali76 compressor pedal, as well as a little bit of added chorus effect from an EBS UniChorus pedal to give it a little bit of a fretless sound.

Follow Online:

www.zachfowlerbass.com
IG @zachfowlerbass
FB @ groovemaster82

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