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Artist Update with Bassist Justin Emord



Meet the positively magnetic Justin Emord, bassist of LA-based hard rock band, Love and a .38.

An advocate for music education, Emord has dedicated a large portion of his career to fostering creativity and the arts through positive outreach programs like Keep Music Alive and NAMM Foundation. When he’s not providing the low end for Love and a .38, or speaking to other independent artists about how to navigate their careers on their own terms, he also moonlights as a photographer. Read on to find out what makes the instantly likable Emord tick.

You were actually a guitar player first. What prompted you to move to bass?

Back when I was in high school, the bass player in the band (I played guitar and piano back then) would just read the charts and go root note to root note. With 5 years of jazz piano already in my pocket, I started suggesting transition notes and ultimately started crafting bass lines for her on a regular basis.

Because of that, I went out to Guitar Center and bought my first bass during junior year. When senior year rolled around, I was quickly moved by my music teacher to bass in concert band and even filled in for the bassist in jazz band for a few concerts and competitions when he was unavailable.

The learning curve to get up to speed on a somewhat new instrument in a school band setting was very steep and sudden but I still look back on those days very fondly and with a lot of pride. At the time, I was also working on my first solo EP so getting a bass and learning was a crossroad I was very rapidly approaching anyways so it all worked out.

As I got into college and wanted to find a band, the work for guitarists was very slim so I started putting out ads as a bass player and I haven’t looked back since.

Originally, you were a D’Addario guy, but you made the switch to GHS Strings recently. What is it about the GHS product line that made you want to change over?

It’s funny, back when I was a guitar player, my string of choice for YEARS was a standard 10 gauge set of GHS Boomers, so honestly being a GHS artist now is kind of like coming back home.

Throughout my career as a bass player, my desired sound has changed a lot, so my basses and strings have changed along with it. As a Fender artist, I feel like my basses more so now than ever each has a distinct personality and characteristics that make each one unique but still play well with each other.

The thing I like about GHS is the wide range the strings sit on across the tonal spectrum, which allows me to pair each bass with a set that compliments it as opposed to being locked into one or two types of strings to do everything.

Your philanthropic efforts with Keep Music Alive and NAMM Foundation (to name a few) have been so amazing and inspiring, and you have dedicated so many hours to teaching young kids how to play an instrument. What made you want to start doing all this charity work, and how did you get involved?

For me, all the charity work I do is very natural and is somewhat surprising I didn’t fall into it sooner.

When I was very young, my parents put me in private lessons for both piano and guitar at different points in my childhood. To this day, I can remember understanding how to play and be ready but lacked the passion and motivation to practice and get better.

Fast forward to my fourth-grade year and my school finally got a music teacher (a problem I didn’t realize was a problem until I began my advocacy work), so my parents put me back in lessons for the third time. This time, the planets aligned and the passion was there. Practicing my scales and exercises became a daily thing along with my homework and suddenly I possessed a skill I had no idea was locked up inside me this whole time.

From then on, I played in the concert band, jazz band and was involved with everything my school had to offer relating to music. By the time I graduated high school, I had learned piano, bass, guitar, competed in various competitions across southern California and national awards for musical excellence and even received my first sponsorship. All of this led to music being an integral part of my life that I decided a career in music was the only way to go for me.

All of those wonderful experiences in school as well as everything I’ve been able to do as a professional musician is thanks to my music teacher and my education in music. It only made sense I would dedicate part of my life to making sure future generations of students have access to music education so that they have the same opportunities that I did.

My venture into music education started 5 years ago when NAMM began their Day of Service events in Anaheim, which is a day when NAMM members get together to teach kids at a local school in Anaheim how to play guitar, drums, ukulele and chorus and movement.

As I approached high school graduation, I volunteered and gave guitar lessons at my school for community service hours so the idea of teaching again was enticing. As I continued to teach with NAMM through the years, I have had the pleasure to work closely with them on their advocacy efforts both at the state and federal level in Sacramento and Washington D.C. Since then, I’ve been able to work with the Anaheim Elementary School District during Keep Music Alive Week and also mentor young talent on the rise through the House of Blues Music Forward Foundation, which aims to empower young artists through showcases and panels and equip them with the tools needed to sustain a successful career in the music industry.

You spoke as a panelist during Winter NAMM 2019 about acquiring sponsorships. How many would you say you have now? I’ve lost count! I think it’s safe to say you are the king of endorsements.

Yes, throughout the majority of my career I have had the pleasure of receiving the support and backing of many companies and I am very thankful for all their help. Currently, I endorse (*gasps and takes in an extra long breath*) Fender basses, Taylor Guitars, Get’s Get’m Straps, Loxx USA Strap locks, Hipshot Products, Graphtech Guitar Labs, GHS Strings, Pinstripe Pedals Rocktron USA, Temple Audio pedal Boards, Loknob, Barefoot Buttons, Voodoo Labs, Stage Ninja Cables, Ashdown Engineering, Drklght Clothing, Grover Allman Guitar Picks and Gator Cases.

One thing I’ve always admired about you are your people skills and your ability to connect things together, whether it’s acquiring product from your sponsors to hand out for the charity events you do, or getting your band featured in an unconventional way. Was this a learned skill, or were you always just naturally great with people, and marketing yourself?

My dad was a ghostwriter, so growing up I always had him checking my work when it came to essays, speeches and presentations in school. I think that definitely planted the seeds to having a leg up in those situations.

As I got older and made it known to my family that I wanted to pursue a career in music, the only way I could get their blessing (because Italians ALWAYS need the family blessing) was if I went to college and got a degree so I had something to fall back on should music not work out. I ended up going to Cal State Northridge and majored in Communication Studies because I felt like that would help in the non-music side of music. Through my professors such as Peter Marston and others, I worked on my public speaking skills, reading nonverbal signs and many other aspects of communication that would be invaluable to me in my career. So I would definitely say it was a learned skill once again going back to the classroom. Go Matadors!

You and your mom (who is an accomplished photographer) have a very special relationship. She is your biggest champion and is often seen snapping photos of you and your band at live shows. Do you bring her on the road with you to take shots as well, or would that cramp your style (ha, ha)?

Yeah, she has always been supportive of my career and I always make sure to remind her that her and my dad insisted that I take lessons, so they’re really to blame for this circus of a life, ha-ha! She has always had a camera in hand as long as I can remember, so much so that I joke that I wasn’t really born, I was actually just developed in a really weird dark room.

Being around photography so much has led me to pick up a camera and find my own voice and eye behind the lenses, which has been fun for us. However, she has a pretty busy schedule running around various clubs in southern California shooting bands so she usually just ends up catching us when we play local and then shutterbugs with other bands when we are out on the road.

Love and a .38 recently performed in Tijuana, Mexico. Was that your first time playing out of the country?

This was our first international show, which was pretty exciting because you know… we’re an international big deal now (*cough cough*).

Playing in Mexico was a really cool experience; the other bands were awesome and very supportive, the venue was super hospitable and wanted to make sure we had the best experience we could and put so much work into the show element of the whole night, which was awesome. The people down there are just so passionate and care so much about music, and it showed.

You were solo for quite a long time before finding Love and a .38. What about Love and a .38 made it feel like it was the right fit?

It’s funny actually; I tried to audition for .38 back in the MySpace days because I was really into the vintage DNA that you could hear in the music. Growing up on the Beatles, Aerosmith and AC/DC, the modern twist the guys put on the guitar hero type of bands from yesteryear was something I really liked. I ran into the guys at NAMM 2010 (because of course NAMM, right?) and that’s when I got the audition and ultimately joined the band.

You guys released an EP entitled “7th Street Shuffle” late last year. What’s next? Will you be doing some touring, or are you writing toward another EP?

The cool thing about this band is we are ALWAYS writing. Even when one batch of songs is off to mastering to be released, there’s another batch of songs that we are already working on for the next release so yes, there is definitely new music in the pipeline that we will release when we feel the time is right and we’ve let “7th Street Shuffle” run its course. Besides that, there is definitely going to be some extensive touring on the horizon, which we are thrilled about and can’t wait to share with everyone. See you all in 2019!

Follow Justin on IG @justin_emord and the band at

Bass Videos

Artist Update With Bassist Derek Frank



Artist Update With Bassist Derek Frank

Bassist Derek Frank…

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

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

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

Photo, Stephen Bradley

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Bass Videos

Interview With Bassist Graham Stanush



Interview With Bassist Graham Stanush

Bassist Graham Stanush…

Return to Dust is keeping Grunge alive and well! They have a new self-titled album that went out on May 3rd, 2024 and will be super busy promoting this project in the near future.

Graham Stanush is the bass powerhouse driving their sound and adding vocals to the mix. Join me as we hear all about Graham’s musical journey, details about the new album, how he gets his sound and their plans for the future.

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Bass Videos

Interview With Bassist Erick “Jesus” Coomes



Interview With Bassist Erick Jesus Coomes

Bassist Erick “Jesus” Coomes…

It is always great to meet a super busy bassist who simply exudes a love for music and his instrument. Erick “Jesus” Coomes fits this description exactly. Hailing from Southern California, “Jesus” co-founded and plays bass for Lettuce and has found his groove playing with numerous other musicians.

Join us as we hear of his musical journey, how he gets his sound, his ongoing projects, and his plans for the future.

Photo, Bob Forte

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IG @jesuscsuperstar
FB @lettucefunk

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Bass Videos

Tour Touch Base (Bass) with Ian Allison



Tour Touch Base (Bass) with Ian Allison

Ian Allison Bassist extreme

Most recently Ian has spent the last seven years touring nationally as part of Eric Hutchinson and The Believers, sharing stages with acts like Kelly Clarkson, Pentatonix, Rachel Platten, Matt Nathanson, Phillip Phillips, and Cory Wong playing venues such as Radio City Music Hall, The Staples Center and The Xcel Center in St. Paul, MN.

I had a chance to meet up with him at the Sellersville Theater in Eastern Pennsylvania to catch up on everything bass. Visit online at

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Interview With Audic Empire Bassist James Tobias



Interview With Audic Empire Bassist James Tobias

Checking in with Bergantino Artist James Tobias

James Tobias, Bassist for psychedelic, Reggae-Rock titans Audic Empire shares his history as a musician and how he came to find Bergantino…

Interview by Holly Bergantino

James Tobias, a multi-talented musician and jack-of-all-trades shares his story of coming up as a musician in Texas, his journey with his band Audic Empire, and his approach to life and music. With a busy tour schedule each year, we were fortunate to catch up with him while he was out and about touring the US. 

Where were you born and raised?

I was born in Dallas, Texas and lived in the Dallas area most of my life with the exception of 1 year in Colorado. I moved to the Austin area at age 18. 

What makes the bass so special to you particularly, and how did you gravitate to it?

I honestly started playing bass because we needed a bass player and I was the one with access to a bass amp and bass. I played rhythm guitar and sang up until I met Ronnie, who I would later start “Audic Empire” with. He also played rhythm guitar and sang and we didn’t know any bass players, so we had to figure something out. I still write most of my songs on guitar, but I’ve grown to love playing the bass. 

How did you learn to play, James?

I took guitar lessons growing up and spent a lot of time just learning tabs or playing by ear and kicked around as a frontman in a handful of bands playing at the local coffee shops or rec centers. Once I transitioned to bass, I really just tried to apply what I knew about guitar and stumbled through it till it sounded right. I’m still learning every time I pick it up, honestly. 

You are also a songwriter, recording engineer, and a fantastic singer, did you get formal training for this? 

Thank you, that means a lot!  I had a couple of voice lessons when I was in my early teens, but didn’t really like the instructor. I did however take a few lessons recently through ACC that I enjoyed and think really helped my technique (Shout out to Adam Roberts!) I was not a naturally gifted singer, which is a nice way of saying I was pretty awful, but I just kept at it. 

As far as recording and producing, I just watched a lot of YouTube videos and asked people who know more than me when I had a question. Whenever I feel like I’m not progressing, I just pull up tracks from a couple of years ago, cringe, and feel better about where I’m at but I’ve got a long way to go. Fortunately, we’ve got some amazing producers I can pass everything over to once I get the songs as close to finalized as I can. 

Describe your playing style(s), tone, strengths and/or areas that can be improved on the bass.

I honestly don’t know what my style would be considered. We’ve got so many styles that we play and fuse together that I just try to do what works song by song.  I don’t have too many tricks in the bag and just keep it simple and focus on what’s going to sound good in the overall mix. I think my strength lies in thinking about the song as a whole and what each instrument is doing, so I can compliment everything else that’s going on. What could be improved is absolutely everything, but that’s the great thing about music (and kind of anything really). 

Who were your influencers in terms of other musicians earlier on or now that have made a difference and inspired you?

My dad exposed me to a lot of music early. I was playing a toy guitar while watching a VHS of Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble live at SXSW on repeat at 4 years old saying I wanted to “do that” when I grew up. I was the only kid in daycare that had his own CDs that weren’t kid’s songs. I was listening to Led Zeppelin, Hendrix, and The Doors when I could barely talk. I would make up songs and sing them into my Panasonic slimline tape recorder and take it to my preschool to show my friends. As I got older went through a bunch of music phases. Metal, grunge, rock, punk, hip hop, reggae, ska, etc. Whatever I heard that I connected to I’d dive in and learn as much as I could about it. I was always in bands and I think I kept picking up different styles along the way and kept combining my different elements and I think that’s evident in Audic’s diverse sound. 

Tell me about Audic Empire and your new release Take Over! Can you share some of the highlights you and the band are most proud of?

Takeover was an interesting one. I basically built that song on keyboard and drum loops and wrote and tracked all my vocals in one long session in my bedroom studio kind of in a stream-of-consciousness type of approach. I kind of thought nothing would come of it and I’d toss it out, but we slowly went back and tracked over everything with instruments and made it our own sound. I got it as far as I could with production and handed it off to Chad Wrong to work his magic and really bring it to life. Once I got Snow Owl Media involved and we started brainstorming about a music video, it quickly turned into a considerably larger production than anything we’ve done before and it was such a cool experience. I’m really excited about the final product, especially considering I initially thought it was a throwaway track.

Describe the music style of Audic Empire for us. 

It’s all over the place… we advertise it as “blues, rock, reggae.” Blues because of our lead guitarist, Travis Brown’s playing style, rock because I think at the heart we’re a rock band, and reggae because we flavor everything with a little (or a lot) of reggae or ska. 

How did you find Bergantino Audio Systems?

Well, my Ampeg SVT7 caught fire at a show… We were playing Stubbs in Austin and everyone kept saying they smelled something burning, and I looked back in time to see my head, perched on top of its 8×10 cab, begin billowing smoke. We had a tour coming up, so I started researching and pricing everything to try and find a new amp. I was also fronting a metal band at the time, and my bass player’s dad was a big-time country bass player and said he had this really high-end bass amp just sitting in a closet he’d sell me. I was apprehensive since I really didn’t know much about it and “just a little 4×10” probably wasn’t going to cut it compared to my previous setup. He said I could come over and give it a test drive, but he said he knew I was going to buy it. He was right. I immediately fell in love. I couldn’t believe the power it put out compared to this heavy head and cumbersome cab I had been breaking my back hauling all over the country and up countless staircases.  

Tell us about your experience with the forte D amp and the AE 410 Speaker cabinet. 

It’s been a game-changer in every sense. It’s lightweight and compact. Amazing tone. And LOUD. It’s just a fantastic amp. Not to mention the customer service being top-notch! You’ll be hard-pressed to find another product that, if you have an issue, you can get in touch with the owner, himself. How cool is that? 

Tell us about some of your favorite basses.

I was always broke and usually working part-time delivering pizzas, so I just played what I could get my hands on. I went through a few pawn shop basses, swapped in new pickups, and fought with the action on them constantly. I played them through an Ampeg be115 combo amp. All the electronics in it had fried at some point, so I gutted it out and turned it into a cab that I powered with a rusted-up little head I bought off someone for a hundred bucks. My gear was often DIY’d and held together by electrical tape and usually had a few coats of spray paint to attempt to hide the wear and tear. I never really fell in love with any piece of gear I had till I had a supporter of our band give me an Ibanez Premium Series SDGR. I absolutely love that bass and still travel with it. I’ve since gotten another Ibanez Premium Series, but went with the 5-string BTB.  It’s a fantastic-sounding bass, my only complaint is it’s pretty heavy. 

Love your new video Take Over! Let us know what you’re currently working on (studio, tour, side projects, etc.)

Thank you!! We’ve got a LOT of stuff we’re working on right now actually. Having 2 writers in the band means we never have a shortage of material. It’s more about getting everything tracked and ready for release and all that goes into that. We just got through filming videos for 2 new unreleased tracks with Snow Owl Media, who did the videos for both Love Hate and Pain and Takeover. Both of these songs have surprise features which I’m really excited about since these will be the first singles since our last album we have other artists on. We’ve also got a lot of shows coming up and I’ve also just launched my solo project as well. The debut single, “Raisin’ Hell” is available now everywhere. You can go here to find all the links

What else do you do besides music?

For work, I own a handyman service here in Austin doing a lot of drywall, painting, etc. I have a lot of hobbies and side hustles as well. I make custom guitar straps and other leather work. I do a lot of artwork and have done most of our merch designs and a lot of our cover art. I’m really into (and borderline obsessed) with health, fitness, and sober living.  I have a hard time sitting still, but fortunately, there’s always a lot to do when you’re self-employed and running a band!

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