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Interview with Bassist Bruce Baldwin

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Interview with Bassist Bruce Baldwin

ASNT Bassist Bruce Baldwin…

We chatted with multi-instrumentalist, Bruce Baldwin of husband-wife duo, ASNT about his approach to bass on the band’s recently released record, “Bleed Like Us: The Evolution of Sorrow.” A dark hard rock duo hailing from Orange County, CA, ASNT takes cues from rock giants Heart, Led Zeppelin, Tool, Rush, and King Crimson for their self-produced LP, which was a 4-year labor of love that the two obsessed over absolutely every detail of. Bruce is, for all intents and purposes a one-man band on the record–assuming guitar, bass, drum, and piano duties–and vocalist, Christina Baldwin interweaves her hauntingly sweet vocals and probing lyrics (ranging from science fiction to murder) in between Robert Fripp-reminiscent riffs.

Interview with Bassist Bruce Baldwin
Photo, Alexx Calise – Header Photo, Christina Baldwin

I hear a lot of King Crimson influence in your playing, especially in your guitar and bass riffs. Who else did you listen to growing up?   

You’re absolutely right.  Robert Fripp and King Crimson affected the way I think about music in a big way, all the way down to the tonalities and textures. I grew up loving all the classic progressive rock stuff, including Yes, Rush and Genesis. There’s an attitude in that music that says, “let’s try to be the best players we can be and make complex music with a big structure.” I love that. Then, of course players like Geddy Lee and Tony Levin set a very high bar for musicianship. I also grew up on a steady diet of classic metal like Judas Priest, Iron Maiden and Black Sabbath.  

You do all the instrumentation on the new record. Which instrument do you normally start with when you sit down to write a new tune? 

It’s not always the same, but I wrote many of the songs on this record on the piano, even the big heavy songs.  I think it’s because the keyboard lets you visualize the harmony and melody so easily.   I come up with a lot of the melodies in my head when I’m not at an instrument, and then sit down at the piano to figure out what the chords should be.  A great song should be able to be played on almost any instrument, so after that it’s just arranging.  “Beacon Eleven” is one where I wrote the main riff as a bass riff, then switched it to guitar to make it crunchier. When it comes to recording, I’ll start with the drums, and layer on parts from there.     

How do you and your wife Christina collaborate? Do you write in the same room together, or do you record some ideas for her to work on independently? 

Christina writes her lyrics independently and gives them to me.   Sometimes I’ll read through the lyrics and I’ll think of a melody right away, and other times I have to wait a long time for that flash of inspiration.  I usually have a bunch of different guitar riffs and ideas I don’t know what to do with, and I try to see if the lyrics and melody can be applied to any of them.  Our songs “In Summation” and “Don’t Make Me” both happened that way.   I generally record a demo and give that to Christina.  Since I write the melodies and I’m not a singer, I trust Christina to interpret those melodies and add the little details and flourishes that make them come alive.   She’ll work on it for a while on her own before we try playing it.  She tells me if some part of the melody just isn’t working, and I’ll go back and change it.     

Which bass(es) did you use on “Bleed Like Us”? 

My main bass now is a PRS Kestrel.  It’s capable of a wide range of tones like a Fender Jazz bass.   It’s got a lovely rich low end without being muddy. That bass is on about half the album.  The other half is a cheap old Ibanez bass that has a bit more twang to it. The interesting thing about playing bass for ASNT is I try hard to keep the bass lines in a purely supportive low-end role, and out of the way of the other instruments.  That goes against my instinct as a bass player, which is to be more melodic and play with a trebly tone higher up on the neck.  My bass heroes are Chris Squire and Paul McCartney.   But with this band I need to have bass lines I can replicate with my live looping set up   They can’t be missed too terribly if they are replaced with something simpler, I can play with a foot pedal.  If you walk away humming the bass line after listening to the album, then I’ve failed, but I still enjoy putting a lot of little details and accents into the bass parts, which many listeners may not even notice.   

You do a lot of live looping when you perform with ASNT. Can you tell us a bit about your live rig? 

I believe live music should be performed live, so I hold myself accountable to playing and looping all the parts onstage, with nothing prerecorded.  It keeps me running around, to be sure! I use a Boss RC-300 looper pedal, which lets you record and control three independent loops on the fly. Absolutely everything else in my rig plugs into that.  I use a Boss GT-100 for all my amp sounds and effects. I play drum kit sounds and samples on a Roland HandSonic.  I use a Studiologic bass pedalboard to play Taurus-style bass notes on the AniMoog app on my iPad through MIDI. At home, I also have a Korg Opsix in my signal chain, but that’s one too many things to bring to live gigs!   

Which pedals and tones do you normally gravitate toward for bass specifically? 

Over time, I’ve discovered that clean bass tones work best for me on recordings, especially if the instrument itself has a balanced tone like the Kestrel.  The GT-100 works great to dial in an effective bass sound.  I’ll apply just a little bit of chorus and compression.  There are a couple of tracks on the album where I added a touch of distortion to give the part a little more energy.

The pandemic has been so hard on all of us creatives for a myriad of reasons. Have you found this to be the case as far as inspiration is concerned, or has it granted you more time to create music and content? 

The pandemic gave me a lot more time to play music at home, although not all that time was especially productive.  It fortunately gave us the time to finish up the album, and to go back and make updates or improvements to songs we’d recorded over the past few years.  The lyrics to “The Inside” were at least partially inspired the fear people were feeling early in the pandemic.  I probably have a dozen unfinished songs from the past year.  I also spent a significant amount of time doing improvised and looped “drone” music, which is almost of form of meditation for me.  

Things are finally starting to open a bit! Do you have any shows or tours on the docket for later this year or early next? 

We’ve been very conservative about getting back onstage.  We want to make sure when we come back that there’s a crowd and everybody feels good about it.   I think that time is coming very soon!   We’ll have live dates on our website as soon as they are announced.

Where can we find and/or listen to the new record?

It’s available for streaming just about everywhere – Spotify, Apple Music, Pandora, IHeartRadio, and so on.   You buy physical copies of the CD directly from us on BandCamp. All the links are at asnt.hearnow.com

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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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Interview With Bassist Graham Stanush

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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.

Visit Online:

linktr.ee/returntodust
instagram.com/returntodustband/
twitter.com/Returntodustbnd
youtube.com/@returntodustband
tiktok.com/@returntodustband

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Interview With Bassist Erick “Jesus” Coomes

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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

Visit Online

www.lettucefunk.com
IG @jesuscsuperstar
FB@jesuscoomes
FB @lettucefunk

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