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Bergantino Audio Systems Welcomes Bassist Matthew Denis with Interview

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Bassist Matthew Denis

Bergantino Audio Systems is proud to welcome Matthew Denis to their family of artists.

A Los Angeles native, Matthew Denis has been working as a professional touring and session musician for over a decade. Whether with vintage pop artists like LP or modern hard rock acts like Diamante, crafting a sound that’s right for the song is always his number one priority. Lee Presgrave sat down with a busy Matt Denis recently at NAMM 2020 to get a small part of his story. Enjoy.

Lee Presgrave: So Matt, what have you been up to?

Matt Denis: I’ve been writing for the new Diamante record, studio work for other clients, and getting prepped to tour over the summer, mostly. Oh, and eating. I love food.

Where are you from?

I’m a Los Angeles native actually, which is a little rare; most people who live in this city are transplants. I grew up in the San Pedro area and it was pretty cool to come up playing gigs at some of the same venues I saw my favorite bands at back in high school.

Tell us how you started on bass guitar?

I started “singing” for a punk rock band in high school and eventually started recording our songs (and our friend’s bands) on one of those old red four-track Fostex boxes: we’re talking no computers, no click-track, no punching in, all recorded live direct to those old giant SD cards.

I really had no idea what I was doing, the internet was still in its infancy and I hadn’t even heard of Pro Tools yet; sometimes I was really successful at capturing what it sounded like in the room and sometimes not so much.

It was a lot of fun though, so I went off to college with the intention of studying recording record-ing engineering. I also played a little guitar at that point, it was a Washburn acoustic, mostly to contribute to writing songs for my band and to flirt with girls.

The college I attended (SDSU) happened to have one of the best party scenes in the entire country. When I realized the amount of general education courses I’d still have to sit through before I finally got to study what I wanted, I realized I was at a crossroads.

So, while I was technically still “enrolled” in school, I ended up digging into the social scene, buying my first bass, joining another band and spending most of my time in my room learning to play by listening to CDs instead of actually attending classes. After about a year of that, I dropped out and moved back to LA to seriously pursue music as a career.

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

My style is focused on groove and tone first and foremost; the most important thing is always to make the song sound and feel good.

Even if you’re playing the perfect part, the wrong sound can totally run the vibe and the reverse is obviously true as well: the right bass and the right amp/signal chain makes all the difference.

I’ve always viewed the bass as the glue that connects the rhythm to the harmony/melody, and since our notes have so much sonic energy it’s really important to be listening even more than we’re playing. That said, the reason I gravitated toward bass, to begin with, was how much melody it was capable of adding to an arrangement; my ears are always open for those possibilities.

My tone varies pretty widely depending on what I’m playing, but for rock stuff, I love big, grinding, in-your-face kind of tones: overdrive/distortion/fuzz of some kind is pretty much mandatory.

Sometimes that kind fo sound even crosses over well into the pop realm; a bass line like “Shut Up and Dance” is a great example of that.

As a player, my strengths are probably the aforementioned things, a knack for finding the right parts and sound for the song regardless of the style, as well the ability to learn a lot of material very quickly.

My mom loves to tell this story about bringing me into work when I was two and the shock of one of her bosses when he saw me reading out loud to myself. I wasn’t actually reading, I had just memorized all of the words on every page so I knew exactly when to turn them.

Weaknesses would be sight-reading (my chops used to be decent years ago but I never really use them anymore) and jazz-level improvisation: jamming with friends is always a good time, but I’d get buried sitting in with some real jazz cats.

Where do you see the instrument 5, 10, or even 20 years from now?

There will still be people talking about how Leo Fender got it right the first time with a P bass and chastising other players for using a pick, as well as new players, luthiers and amp builders doing things with the instrument that would have been inconceivable 5, 10 and 20 years prior.

As the digital world of music production continues to grow, there is always the possibility that bass will be entirely replaced by sampling, but after spending three months straight on the road with Breaking Benjamin, Chevelle & Three Days Grace last year performing for over 500,000 rabid rock fans I have a strong suspicion that there will always be a demand for live music.

People hate this question but: If you were constructing your personal Bass Mt. Rush-more, who are the four players that would make the cut and why?

They probably hate it because it’s a borderline impossible question; we’re influenced by every single thing we’ve ever listened to, and trying to distill a lifetime of music down to four players is a pretty tough ask.

That said, Karl Alvarez (The Descendents) and Matt Freeman (Operation Ivy/Rancid) were two of the main reasons I started playing in the first place, so they’d have to make the list.

As far as players I’d most like to emulate as a working session musician, I’d probably have to say Pino Palladino and Justin Meldal-Johnson. Their parts and tones are always perfect and they’ve had some gigs that I’d absolutely love to do.

Then there are guys like Mikey Shoes (Queens of the Stone Age) and Jeremy Pritchard (Every-thing Everything) who have really melodic takes on modern bass playing, with unique tones to boot, that are both incredibly inspiring.

See?! Picking just four is impossible, I could easily go on for a few more paragraphs.

Matt, we’ve known each other a while now. How many basses do you think weve sold to each other?

Oh god. Dozens. Our wives would probably be horrified.

What else do you like to do besides playing bass?

I love to read, travel, train, eat, and hang out with my wife and cats. I also just started getting back into photography. I loved it back in high school, but that was back in the day of real film and darkrooms. This is a whole new world.

So, why did you choose Bergantino gear?

I’ve never played through an amp that impressed me as much as the forté HP does, and I’ve used all of the big names and most of the classics: everything about the design is incredibly musical and intuitive, and every engineer who has heard it was incredulous that there aren’t any tubes in it.

The headroom is incredible, it’s remarkably versatile and the fact that one of the best fuzz circuits I’ve ever heard for bass is built right into the amp, and updated circuit designs can be loaded in seconds via USB on the front panel, is the icing on the cake. Bergantino is currently making the best bass amplifiers on the market.

Let us know what youre currently working on (studio, tour, side projects, etc.).

Writing for the new Diamante record and getting ready to tour with her this summer, we have some great festival dates lined up (Rocklahoma, Rebel Rock & Louder Than Life) and are book-ing a tour around those.

Finishing up recording for a modern hard rock album with an old friend that’s some of my favorite material I’ve ever worked on as well, so I’m pretty excited about that. I’m not sure we’ll ever tour, but creating music with other musicians just for the love is its own reward.

I’m also working on some online collaborations with some great musicians around the country to show off some of the gear we all love, you can expect to see some of those really soon.

See you on the road!

Follow Matthew on Facebook @ MatthewtheBassPlayer and Instagram @matthewthebassplayer

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Artist Update With Mark Egan, Cross Currents

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Artist Update With Mark Egan, Cross Currents

I am sure many of you are very familiar with Mark Egan as we have been following him and his music for many years now. The last time we chatted was in 2020.

Mark teamed up with drummer Shawn Pelton and guitarist Shane Theriot to produce a new album, “Cross Currents” released on March 8th, 2024. I have been listening to this album in its entirety and it is simply superb (See my review).

Now, I am excited to hear about this project from Mark himself and share this conversation with our bass community in Bass Musician Magazine.

Photo courtesy of Mark Egan

Visit Online:

markegan.com
markegan.bandcamp.com
Apple Music
Amazon Music

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Interview With By the Thousands Bassist Adam Sullivan

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Interview With By the Thousands Bassist Adam Sullivan

Bassist Adam Sullivan…

Hailing from Minnesota since 2012, By the Thousands has produced some serious Technical Metal/Deathcore music. Following their recent EP “The Decent”s release, I have the great opportunity to chat with bassist Adam Sullivan.

Join me as we hear about Adam’s musical Journey, his Influences, how he gets his sound, and the band’s plans for the future

Photo, Laura Baker

Follow On Social

IG &FB @bythethousands
YTB @BytheThousands

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Gear News: Bergantino Welcomes Marc Brownstein to Their Family of Artists

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bassist marc browstein

Bergantino Welcomes Marc Brownstein to Their Family of Artists

Bergantino Shares: The innovative bassist/sonic explorer/DJ Marc Brownstein discusses his life of touring with Disco Biscuits, the current tour with the new album “Revolution in Motion, and more!

By Holly Bergantino

Marc Brownstein is the king of “Trance-Fusion” – a subgenre that his band Disco Biscuits has been in the center of for the past two decades. As a founding member of the band from their days at UPenn, Marc has quite the experience under his belt, and each tour has gotten more and more exciting. Disco Biscuits is currently on tour with their new album Revolution in Motion, a full multimedia experience accompanied by a 25-minute animated film that tells a story of intergalactic travelers finding their way on Earth. 

D. J. Brownie! What made you want to be a musician and start playing bass and who drew you to it? 

I was drawn to music after John Lennon was assassinated. I was raised in NYC and the city was just going crazy. I was 7 years old at the time and my thought was, wow why is everyone freaking out so much, this guy must be really special. And so I started to check the Beatles out and that was the beginning of my journey with music.  

A question from one of your fans and fellow bass players Karina Rykman: “How do you keep your bubble of positivity intact and thriving”?

Well it’s funny she should ask. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the run of positivity we are experiencing now began right at the beginning of tour at the beginning of January 2023 when we had Karina opening for us for a week. I can say that her positive energy on tour definitely left its mark on the rest of our tour. Some people are so naturally happy and positive that it leaves you feeling that way, sometimes permanently! 

Besides the bass guitar, what other instruments do you play? 

I dabble with piano, guitar, and I can make my way around a drum kit if I get into it for a few weeks. I’ve played flute and saxophone as well at different times. I also play the double bass. But I would say Piano is my second instrument at this point. I play everyday. 

What is your favorite (and least favorite) thing about touring? 

The best part of touring is the 4 hours on stage with the band. But also getting to visit so many great places all of the time. That’s the silver lining.  The only thing I don’t love about touring is missing my family. 

Tell us about your first music teacher. What lesson did you learn from this person and still use today? 

My first music teacher, Mrs. Koslov, 2nd grade, I just was at her funeral a few weeks ago. I eventually became best friends with Mrs Koslov’s son and we stayed in touch for my whole life. She taught me a lot but really she was the one who gave me the courage to perform. My first public performance ever was a piano version of Eleanor Rigby. 

What was the first bass you had? 

This is tough. I think I had a standard Ibanez jazz style bass first. Within a year or two I got an American Fender Jazz bass. 

What are the basses you have and use now? 

My main bass is an Elrick 5 string by Rob Elrick. I also have a Q5 Modulus and an Alembic 5 as well. Oteil (Burbridge) sent me a Roscoe custom 6 during the Pandemic that I like to play. I also have a Sire Marcus Miller, a newer American Fender Jazz bass, a custom Ibanez SDGR, an Ibanez BTB and an Elrick 5 string Fretless bass which is my main bass at home. 

Who were the musicians who inspired you and what qualities do you admire about them? 

I was deeply influenced by Phish when I discovered them in college. I admired their ability to mesh jazz, classical and rock Improvisational styles. I was very inspired by classic jazz musicians. Miles. Monk. Coltrane. Dexter Gordon. Cannonball Adderly. Mingus. This is the generation of musicians that laid the groundwork for what we do now. 

You studied and started the band Disco Biscuits at UPenn. Tell us more about the origins. 

The band just sort of linked up in the quad (dormitory) and we started to set up our gear and jam for fun. Within a short time I realized the guys I was playing with were really talented and so I applied to the New School for jazz and went and spent a year crash coursing music at a high level so I could return to Penn and start a band with them. 

You have a new album “Revolution in Motion,” that you’re currently touring on. How is it going? 

The tour has been amazing. It’s one of the best tours we ever had in our career. We sold out more than half of the shows and are receiving really great feedback across the country. 

I watched the video on YT for Revolution in Motion. The Choreography, production, color, cartoon characters, and theme were so much fun. Space aliens and psychedelic art, pop ups like a comic book, and you in your alien jump suit with your baseball cap were amazing. Loved! How was this collaborated?  

We have a co-writer on this project named Joey friedman. He conceived of the concept for the album and he had a very specific vision for what the visuals would look like. He spent hours and hours with the animators (Blunt Action) and the AI animator (Todd Kushnir) working through each iteration to make it come to life in the way that it was conceived. 

How would you describe the music you create for Disco Biscuits? 

We always hoped that the music we created would be the weirdest and craziest music of all time but we describe it as Trance-Fusion, which was a name that was drawn from jazz-fusion, the mixing of jazz with rock and roll instruments. We found our own sound by mixing trance music with rock and roll instruments, hence the genre title. It was renamed jamtronica many years later by the folks over at SiriusXM who started a radio show called the Jamtronica show to highlight acts from our scene. I was the host of that show for the first 3 years. 

Describe the creative process when you write new music. 

These days the creative process is a team effort. Usually we start by combing through improvisational sections of music from the tours to see if we can find any melodies or chord structures that are song worthy. When we find it we bring it into our DAW (ableton) and creating a grid. This is easy for us because we often play to a time clock on stage. From there we start building out the structures of the new piece of music while Joey and maybe me or Aron or Jon will start working on some lyrical concepts. Within an hour or two we start to record some of these initial lyrics and melodies and Jon usually starts to adapt them and tweak them to make them comfortable for him to sing. Usually within a few hours we are able to walk away with a very advanced demo of a new song. It’s been an extremely fruitful experience that has left us with albums worth of the best material we’ve had in decades. 

The lighting for your shows is amazing. Who does the lighting design work and choreography for the tours? 

Our new LD is known as Herm, but his name is Alex. We know him as Herm though. He came to us from the band Twiddle at the beginning of this year and has totally revitalized the visual elements of the stage show. He’s a really great fit and we feel grateful to have been linked up with such a massive talent. It was luck and timing and some might call it fate. 

How would your bandmates describe you? 

My bandmates would probably describe me as energetic and talkative and headstrong but also they might notice that I’ve become really good at going with the flow and backing their creative instincts. They may further describe me as anxious and nervous but may also notice that these elements have been remediated of recent. Mostly I think they would describe me as loyal and dedicated. 

How did you find Bergantino Audio systems? 

I was first introduced to it by Ed Grasmeyer who I know as Mike Gordon’s tech in Burlington. I was playing a show at Nectars and needed a backline and Ed came and set me up with the ForteHP2 and I was blown away by the tone. I then noticed Karina Rykman was using Bergantino as well and that’s when I started to think I needed to get in contact with the company. Karina was opening for the Biscuits on Boston and that’s where I had the chance to demo the forte hp2 in the context of the biscuits stage show. I haven’t looked back since that night. 

Tell us about your experience with the Forté HP2 on the tour? 

There are so many things that I can say about it but the most notable is that I’m not struggling to hear the frequencies that I want to hear on stage anymore. I used to have to boost the bass everywhere. In an EQ pedal, on the preamp on the actual bass. But every time you add a little of those low frequencies in those other places you risk degrading the tone of the signal. With the Forte HP2 there is a punch button that gives me exactly the frequency I’m looking for. 100 hz. 4 db. It’s perfect. 

Did you think Jim talked too much when you met him in Boston? 

I will never notice when someone talks too much because chances are I’m out talking them. 

What’s your process for dealing with performance anxiety? 

I used to self-medicate for this purpose but I was recently in touch with a psychiatrist who has helped me regulate my own chemical imbalances and I have found that my performance anxiety isn’t really an issue when I have the proper amount of dopamine in the system! 

Imagine that you’re at a party and it’s a little stale. What’s the “party trick” (or hidden talent) that you’d bust out to liven the place up? 

Before the app existed I was known as a real life fruit ninja. I take a big knife and people throw fruit from across the room and I chop it in half in mid-air. It’s not the safest party trick anymore because I lost vision in my right eye a few years ago and I’m not as accurate as I used to be! 

What hobbies do you have outside of music? 

I love sports. I love reading. I love word games. I love gardening. I love hiking/running/moving. My biggest hobby was snowboarding for many years but I’ve grown injury prone and stay off the mountain these days. 

What is the most trouble you ever got into? 

Well, I managed to stay out of trouble until college. But before weed was legalized I had a series of run-ins with the law and spent a night in the clink in Amherst Mass during my freshman year fraternity pledge trip. Luckily this isn’t an issue anymore for those of us who don’t drink or smoke cigarettes but prefer a little of the wacky tabacky to cool down. 

What is the message you would give to your fans? 

Well I give them so many messages all the time but the most important one that I try to remember to keep constant is a message of gratitude. Thank you so much for sticking with us through thick and thin, through ups and downs, for decades now you have allowed us to live our dreams and have the most blessed lives possible. 

How do you feel social media has impacted your music? 

Social media is a double edged sword. It has allowed us to create a strong community where everyone feels like a family but for someone like me who gets addicted to things easily, I really have to be vigilant with practice and writing and other aspects of my life not to spend the whole day scrolling and wasting the time away. 

What is your favorite song of all time? 

Right now my favorite song of all time is probably a short and beautiful little ditty by Labi Siffre called Bless the Telephone. I would suggest everyone take the 1:29 to listen to it and feel the bliss. 

What did I miss for a question that you would like to share? 

Bass players don’t really get to play solo shows, at least not my style of bass, so I’ve had to learn how to DJ in order to perform by myself at times and I would suggest coming out to see a DJ Brownie show at some point. 

Last one! Describe your perfect meal! 

I love to eat great meals. I’m partial to Asian foods but the perfect meal to me is one slice of pizza from Freddie and Peppers on 72nd and Amsterdam in NYC. PERFECTION. 

Follow Marc Brownstein:
Instagram: @marcbrownstein
X (formerly Twitter): @marc_brownstein
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/marcbrownstein4
www.discobiscuits.com

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Interview With Bassist Curly Hendo

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Interview Wity Bassist Curly Hendo

Bassist Curly Hendo…

Hailing from Sydney, Australia, bassist Curly Hendo has been super busy. Starting with dance from a young age, Curly took up bass shortly after and has been going strong ever since. She has collaborated with numerous acts worldwide and is an in-demand session/touring bassist and musical director.

Join me as we learn about Curly’s musical journey, how she gets her sound, and her plans for a very bright future.

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Artist Update With Bassist Derek Frank

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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

Visit Online:

www.derekfrank.com
www.instagram.com/derekfrankbass
www.youtube.com/derekfrankbass
www.facebook.com/derekfrankbass

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