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Angeline Saris: One on One – May 2019 Issue

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Bassists are known for being versatile, and Bay Area bassist, Angeline Saris, is no exception.

With an extensive list of credits, Angeline is moving to the front of the band with new project, Angelex.

I got a chance to speak with Angeline about our respective albums, which lead to genres, then to gear, etc. Hey, you know how musicians talk…

With that, here’s the abridged version…

For more info on Angeline Saris, please visit www.angelinesaris.com
For more info on Jon Moody, please visit
www.justmoody.com

ON EFFECTS

Angeline Saris: I noticed you’re running some phasing on the drums in a tune?

Jon Moody: Yeah, on Mean Streak. It was a suggestion from the producer.

AS: I like that; it doesn’t detract from the bass, but ties it in really well.

JM: Yeah, it took us both (myself and drummer, Jeff Link) a little time to wrap our heads around it. We originally heard it and Jeff said “I don’t like it; it’s not what I asked for!” But I said “Hold on, let’s give it a shot” and sent the track out for critique. I didn’t tell anyone; the first thing they said was “Man, whatever’s going on with the drums is cool, because right when it gets to the chords, that kick drum just punches you in the chest!”

AS: Yep, yep!

JM: And so we said “Cool, let’s keep it.”

AS: I totally agree. That brings me to your tone; I’m curious as to your signal chain. Did you keep it consistent, or change it as you went? It sounds really clean, for the most part.

JM: I dipped my toe into effects for the album; I used distortion on the Soundgarden tune, and a lot of echo and delay on “A Little Insomnia.” But other than that, it’s just my Hilton Workhorse 5-string through a (Pigtronix Bass Station) compressor straight into an Aguilar Tone Hammer 500 and two SL112 cabinets.

AS: So that IS distortion on the end of that! I wasn’t sure if it was just a gain/overdrive, a distortion pedal or what?

JM: It’s a little pedal from Creation Audio, called the Grizzly Bass; it does more than just distortion. It’s got a treble rolloff (like your typical passive tone control), a mid-scoop, and separate distortion and overdrive channels. So you can blend everything together. I’ve used it a lot in theatre pits when you’re playing rock musicals (i.e. Tommy), but you can’t have a wall of amps behind you. I’ll use that and go to the FOH; it sounds like I’ve got an Ampeg fridge in the pit.

What I’ve been using it for lately – and you’d probably dig this – is I’ll scoop the mids and turn up the overdrive a little bit to get this dirty slap sound.

AS: Yeah, I do like that! It was really perfect, and tastefully done at the end of the tune. Sometimes I feel like people tend to be heavy-handed when they go into distortion, and it was perfect for the song.

JM: Since we’re on effects, let’s talk about yours. Because, you use a LOT.

AS: *laughs*

JM: Didn’t you say that the song, “Piggy,” was titled because of the sound you were getting?

AS: Yeah, exactly! I have a Boss Synth pedal. It’s got a bunch of different settings, but one I feel is really useable. When I paired it with my Boss OC-2, it sounded like a piggy snorting. And so we ended up calling the tune “Piggy,” and I think if you listen closely actually, doubling the piano skank we side-chained it with “piggy skank.” *laughs* So there’s like a “snort skank” the entire time! But it was fun!

JM: What are some other effects you’re using, aside from the OC-2?

AS: Yeah, I have the OC-2 and then my favorite is a Watson EFY-6 fuzz. That one has got… I don’t know what he put in there, but it’s just rip-your-face-off. So that one’s in a couple of tracks like “Evolution” and “Maja Raja” when it gets pretty gnarly. But I have the OC-2 with an MXR Envelope Filter that’s your standard, Parliament vibe.

I’ve also got this cool Wren & Cuff fuzz, a phaser, etc.. But that’s the bulk of what makes the mix of all those sounds. And sometimes a sponge on the back pickup.

BASSES AND INFLUENCES

Angeline Saris: Aside from the Hilton Workhorse, you’ve got a fretless in the second track (A Little Insomnia)? What’s up with that?

Jon Moody: That is a Willcox Saber VL fretless; it’s got optical pickups. For the longest time I was so insecure about even playing fretless at all, because there’s so many tracks out there where your ear just screams “Ahhh, intonation!”

AS: *laughs*

JM: So I didn’t want to do that. It also seems like any time someone picks up a fretless and plays anything, people assume you’re Jaco (Pastorius), which is totally not the vibe.

AS: I didn’t get that at all! I hear a lot more (Michael) Manring in it over Jaco.

JM: Yeah, he’s totally a big influence.

AS: Who are some others?

JM: I also like Oteil Burbridge, and Jonas Hellborg…

AS: Oh nice! Are you a Stanley Clarke fan as well?

JM: Yeah, big time! When I started doubling (on electric and upright basses), he was the bassist I latched onto, because he was doing what I was doing.

AS: Right, right. I definitely heard some of that too.

JM: Yeah, you can hear his influence in my tone.

AS: Oh, absolutely!

JM: Speaking of influences, “Top Down” off your album has this really great Larry Graham stamp on it.

AS: *laughs* Yeah, Larry’s probably one of my top three, most favorite bass players of all time. I’ve definitely spent some time shedding on his lines, so that somehow made its way into it.

JM: What I like about that groove too, is that you can sing that slap line.

AS: Wow, really?

JM: Yeah, it’s like this *sings the groove, poorly* And that’s the kind of slap bass that I like, where it grooves. Not like the stuff where people are like “Look how fast I can play!”

AS: Yeah, for me I like it to be stanky. Especially growing up in the Bay, it’s just the vibe; Oakland, Larry… I mean, this is a different brand of stanky.

JM: Oh, totally!

AS: But that’s the goal, so I appreciate being put in the same category as Larry in that sentence.

JM: The beginning tune (Are You Ready?) also has a nod to Parliament, especially with the deejay intro.

AS: Lex and I (whose project this is) had a hip-hop project about ten years ago; recorded an album that never came to light. Back then, we worked with this amazing vocalist, named Mike Blake. When we wrote the track, we immediately said “We need to get Mike on it!” It wasn’t the intent to make a Parliament tune, but when it was done, its influence was clear. And I’m okay with that!

JM: Yeah, if you’re gonna nod to somebody, might as well be to the Mothership.

AS: EXACTLY! Mike’s got that really deep, deejay voice which helped too.

JM: I know you’re usually a big Fender Jazz player. Did you change up anything else on the tracks? I know there’s a track with an upright on it, which sounded awesome.

AS: Oh thank you, that was “Six Eight.” I originally played the whole thing just on electric. One day, I was doing a hired session on upright at the same studio with the same engineer; he was simultaneously working on this session and my album! Jokingly, as a sound check, I busted into the groove on “Six Eight,” and he laughed but then said “…wait a second” and just hit the record button! We ended up dropping it right in, and he put some nice effects on it, which added a much hipper vibe to that tune.

ON GENRES

Jon Moody: You mention in the liner notes about the different genres you touch on that organically weave together. You’re listening to “Top Down,” which moves into some latin grooves and before you know it, “Evolution” leads you into a classic rock anthem.

Angeline Saris: We didn’t go into this album saying “We’re going to make a funk album” or “Let’s make a Parliament-esque album,” or “Let’s make a Zepplin album,” etc.. Lex and I got together for many years just to practice; I’d come in with something I wanted to practice or he’d have something he’d want to work on. We’d get together about twice a month and do it, just to shed.

And then, we just ended up writing. I’d record everything, we’d go back and listen, and I’d say “I think we have some cool stuff!”

“Space Train,” that Herbie (Hancock) meets heavy instrumental track, was the first thing we recorded. We had a bunch of snippets and started going at them, one foot in front of the other without looking at the top of the mountain, you know? It was like “Well, this song feels like it needs this,” and “This song might need this.” And what ended up happening was that each track evolved into its own thing. At the end of the day, I wasn’t sure if we had some level of consistency throughout or not.

JM: Yeah, that was really cool. You’ve got a TON of talented people on this album. My favorite  is the vocalist on “Evolution.” The song starts out with this huge rock feel, breaks it down with this nice keyboard part, and then when he comes in, it’s like silk.

AS: Thank you! Eric Smith is a local guitarist/vocalist and singer/songwriter. We just knew he was gonna be the call for this; he has a definite rock vibe but he can be gentle and sweet. I loved the way he approached this; it was one of the easiest recording sessions we had.

When you were in the studio, were you tempted at all to want to add other musicians, or did you know going into it that it was gonna be strictly bass and drums?

JM: No, I knew this was gonna be just bass and drums. My first album (Music for our Hands) was very much in the vein of Victor Wooten’s “A Show of Hands;” just him and his bass. I wanted to do that, but approached it more like a classical cello album.

So for me, going to bass and drums was already stepping out of my comfort zone. I was alright with that addition, but if I could’ve found a keyboard player just for some “color,” like adding some string patches to “A Little Insomnia,” I would’ve entertained that. Something to add a bit more atmosphere, I guess.

But then there’s other times, like the Soundgarden cover, where the sparse arrangement adds a delicateness to that.

AS: Yeah, and I would even agree to that in “Insomnia,” as it highlights the delicateness of the fretless. But with the Soundgarden tune, it brings a much different vibe that was not there when it was originally recorded.

JM: *laughs* That’s been fun to play out live, because I don’t set it up at all; we start into it. It’s fun to watch peoples’ heads turn as they catch the melody. By the end, when the distortion is on and it’s going full bore, everyone’s rocking out.

AS: Yes! Very much so. So then, when you play live, you’re just playing everything as-is then?

JM: We’ve been starting to branch out a little more. I originally wrote a couple of tunes with the intent of triggering a loop in the middle, so I could open it up a little, let the drummer stretch out a bit and then I could solo. We didn’t do that on the album, but we’ve been doing it live.

WHAT’S IN A NAME?

Angeline Saris: So, do I get to know the meaning behind the titles? Or, would you have to kill me after you tell me?!

Jon Moody: *laughs* No, I can tell you!

AS: Yeah, I’m curious where “Mean Streak” came from?

JM: Okay, there was a wooden roller coaster at Cedar Point amusement park called the Mean Streak. I spent two summers during college playing in the house bands. So, instead of just going home and flipping burgers, I was playing music at a theme park, and the Mean Streak was my backyard.

When I started writing that song, it was going to be an ode to Cedar Point (and my time there), but that’s when I found out that summer was when they were retiring the Mean Streak and taking it down.

AS: Awwwwww!

JM: It was one of those old wooden ones, so you always came off of it with at least one bruise. So it’s probably fitting that that song is a monster to play.

AS: That makes sense. You end up with a bruise or two after you’re done playing it.

JM: Right, right!

AS: Could be! What about “Viva la Bull?”

JM: Hahaha, that one was just a product of screwing around; it’s my tongue-in-cheek nod to NAMM chops. It’s in “Open E,” but it’s in 12/8 and has a lot of little bends and things, and right in the middle it has just three quarter notes, kind of like you’re sticking your tongue out as you’re playing.

I originally told Jeff that we were gonna record it; sent him a scratch track and a chart to practice. The week prior to the session, I decided against it.

But at the studio, we kicked out the first four recordings so fast, we had around 3 hours left. The engineer said we could just jam for a bit; he’d hit the record button and whatever happens, happens. I looked at Jeff and said “Hey, you wanna do that funk tune I was originally gonna do, and then changed my mind?”

At the end of it, the engineer commented that it sounded like a bull in a china shop, which I replied “Viva la Bull!” And it stuck.

AS: There you go! I love that impromptu, just hit record and go, vibe. I feel that’s where some of the best magic happens. It’s fun!

JM: Yeah, and that came through in the end, where we’re holding it off for so long, and Jeff does that last drum hit.

AS: Haha yeah, that little tag, or exclamation point?

JM: We got the original mixes back, and they took that off the track. We both said “Put it back. It HAS to be in there!”

AS: Those are the “Easter Eggs” on the album!

JM: Exactly! Okay, your turn. I’m dying to hear the background behind the song, “Up to Froth.”

AS: *laughs* Okay, this one’s good. I have a very close friend, Bianca Volente, who’s a professional big wave surfer. She surfs Mavericks and Peyahe; all the biggest waves in the world. She’s also on this Commission for Women’s Equality in Surfing, to propose that women get the same payment as men. They surf the same waves, but for some reason the pot isn’t as big; it’s usually a third. They just got it passed in California, which is really great. Unfortunately, it’s not the same in Hawaii or other states. But simply, she’s a total badass.

She’s part owner of a restaurant that’s just by my house, and there frequently. Lex and I would go in, kick it with her and her friend Joe Moe (who’s also a great surfer), and listen to them just talk in such surf-lingo. They’re like “Ah bro, just like, catching this brawls and got so pitted.”

We recorded their phone conversation once. Joe Moe had been talking about how he dressed up as a Merman to go to this party, and the party wasn’t that cool, but then he got it “up to froth.”

And that was the whole lingo behind it.

And that’s one of those things that Lex and I feel, is that this album is very California in a lot of ways.

JM: I was going to say that it feels like a love letter to the state.

AS: Yeah, thank you! I haven’t heard it put quite like that, but I guess it sort of is. Surfing is obviously a big part of California. I suck at surfing, but I can certainly appreciate it, especially the big wave surfers who have to be pretty much insane to surf those building-sized waves.

JM: The other one that was interesting is “Dirty Cycle.” It’s very dance, very modern, etc..

AS: That’s kind of what we were going for, but perhaps not in those exact terms. “Dirty Cycle” felt like a big diversion from everything else on the album, and it was also more upbeat. So we were like “Maybe we should warm people up to this and then sneak it in at the end!” *laughs*

JM: That works!

AS: But it’s definitely the pop track. We didn’t intend for it to be that, but it kept morphing into it.

JM: Seems like too, as songs start to move into a direction, you can either fight it (and it’ll get there quicker) or you can just let it do its thing.

AS: Yeah, we had nothing to gain or lose; we weren’t bound to putting out an album to millions of fans. I’m a solo bass artist who works as a hired gun who wants to release some art. I might as well do what I want to do, and let things be what they want to be.

JM: You bring up a good point, with being a solo bass artist. Your album is not what I would consider a stereotypical solo bass album. This is for someone that just likes music, period. You might realize it’s a bass/drums duo, you might not.

AS: It definitely doesn’t fit that prerequisite. Lex and I like being the rhythm section for people. We just did a show the other night, which was killer. We had an 11-piece band in front; I don’t think you could see us the whole night! We were okay with it, you know? Our job is to be felt AND to be heard, but really to drive that pulse to get people dancing, or get people grooving.

Maybe at some point I’ll do something more bass solo oriented, but I like this. It’s got a more mainstream, pop appeal. And that felt right at this moment.

JM: Right. And you’re gigging out with this regularly too?

AS: We are! We spent so much time in the studio on this. We put it out in June (2018) and were like “Okay! Let’s book some shows!” We booked a couple shows the year prior to the album release, but there’s only so many hours in the day. So we’ve been able to focus just on that. We had two shows this past weekend, and did a really great one a couple weeks earlier.

And next year (2019) we’re hoping to push this a little more. Our live sound is evolving and so different, I feel that maybe we should do a live album; it’s more dance and funk driven, and more cohesive. But it’s great! We’re playing out; it’s kind of amazing!


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

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

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

Will Turpin - Bass Musician Magazine - June 2024

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

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

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

Here is Will Turpin!

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

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Guy Pratt, Not Your Average Guy – May 2024 Issue

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Guy Pratt, Not Your Average Guy - May 2024 Issue

Guy Pratt, Not Your Average Guy – May 2024 Issue

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

By David C. Gross and Tom Semioli

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NFAA TOM: Non-binary strings? 

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

NFAA TOM: Good observation Guy. 

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

NFAA TOM: …much like the bass player. 

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

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

 NFAA DAVID: It used to have a headstock…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NFAA DAVID: Boring old farts! 

GP: Right! 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GP: Don’t forget Tony Levin!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NFAA DAVID: It does not matter! 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GP: Here’s the old girl!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GP: She was terrifying!  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pratt to Bottrell: ‘Why me Bill?” 

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

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

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

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

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

NFAA DAVID: Take that Pino! 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GP: Right. 

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

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

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

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

NFAA DAVID: An Eb!

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

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

GP: Ah I was about to bring those up!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Bass Videos

Brian Bromberg, Paying Tribute to Scott LaFaro – April 2024

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

Brian Bromberg, Paying Tribute to Scott LaFaro, April 2024

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

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

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

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

Photo, Michel Bocandé

Visit Online

brianbromberg.net
FB @BrianBrombergBassist
YouTube

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Visit Online

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

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Bass Videos

Ricky Phillips, STYX Bass And More – February 2024

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Ricky Phillips, STYX Bass And More, January 2024

Ricky Phillips, STYX Bass And More…

This Week’s Top 10 Basses on Instagram

I have always been a huge Styx fan. Their music kept me awake during countless nights studying and gave my imagination a place to escape when I had a moment to take a break. 

I had the immense opportunity to chat with STYX bassist Ricky Phillips for our August Cover in 2017 and follow his projects as time passed. Now, I am thrilled to have the opportunity to catch up with Ricky as he has been super-busy over the past six years. 

Join me as we take a deep dive into the band’s most recent album “Crash the Crown” and EP “The Same Stardust”. Ricky shares some insights into the herculean team effort behind the scenes and the musical process that keeps them ever so busy and how he has updated his sound. 

Without further ado… Here is Ricky Phillips!

Photo: Jason Powell

“Crash of the Crown” lyric video

“Reveries” lyric video

“Save Us From Ourselves” lyric video

“Sound the Alarm” lyric video

“Too Much Time On My Hands” Zoom video 2020

Visit online:

www.Styxworld.com
FB & IG @styxtheband

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