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Interview With Bassist Chris Agar



Interview With Bassist Chris Agar

Bassist Chris Agar…

We recently had the opportunity to chat with Chris Agar, an NYC area bassist who is currently laying down the low end for indie rocker Collin Stanley. Agar collaborated with Stanley on his latest single, “Gone Through Hell,” a highly introspective song detailing the isolation and uncertainty Stanley felt during the pandemic. Recorded at Bull Productions Recording Studio in Miami, Agar channels John Paul Jones, and masterfully builds tension throughout each verse until it explodes into an eventual frenzy.

Read on to hear how the song took shape, and how he wrestled with a Gibson Grabber to get that bass tone. 

How long have you known Collin, and how did you originally become acquainted?

I met Collin over six years ago in a tiny rehearsal space/percussion studio in Williamsburg, Brooklyn for a female-fronted rock band called DDWhite. The space couldn’t have been bigger than 10 x 10 and barely fit all of us. One of the first tunes we jammed was “Ramble On” by Led Zeppelin.  At the time, I was playing upright bass with Tiffany (the frontwoman) and we had more of a folksy rock vibe.  Collin suggested I switch to the electric bass to allow for more flexibility and to get harder tones.

Collin Stanley and Bassist Chris Agar

Collin and I quickly realized we had mutual friends and instantly connected over our love of the Detroit music scene since we both had a strong connection to the region.  We have a well-established creative relationship and have collaborated on many projects, including some of my own.  The idea for Made on Tape was hatched in Collin’s kitchen and he co-wrote and played guitar on my Working Flakes project.  

Tell us about your live rig/setup whenever you guys play together. Do you have any go-to’s for his project as far as pedals or guitars?

Living in NYC, you quickly learn to adapt to all kinds of rehearsal scenarios, and it’s difficult to maintain a consistent rock rig, in terms of amplifiers and speaker cabinets, unless you don’t mind pissing off your neighbors.

Obviously, you can tell that saturation/distortion/overdrive is a big part of the bass sound with Collin Stanley.  I typically use an Ashdown Nate Mendel Dual Overdrive, which gives a TON of flexibility.  One circuit sounds more like tube amp distortion, and the other is heavier, and you control them independently.  You can even switch on both circuits simultaneously for BIG distortion.

I like semi-hollow basses, probably because I studied and play a lot of upright bass, too.  I frequently use the Epiphone Jack Casady signature bass when performing with Collin because it gives such an amazing sustain and very aggressive sound all on its own, no effects.

Did you collaborate virtually or in person at the studio for the new single?

In-person.  Collin and his roommates got COVID in the early days when we didn’t know how that would turn out, but after a few months, we started getting together in a studio space in Greenpoint.  Collaborating remotely is amazing and has opened up a lot of opportunities, but I much prefer being in a room with someone.  The feedback is instantaneous, and we trust each other’s instincts as much as our own, which is rare in a creative relationship.

How did you approach and arrange “Gone Through Hell” on bass? Did you draw some inspiration from your own personal experiences with the pandemic?

All I can say is that being in New York City during this time was a real eye-opener.  I’m genuinely relieved that most people living in other parts of the country/world didn’t really ever feel the urgency, but we literally had bodies filling up cold trucks outside of hospitals back in early 2020.  The city that never sleeps suddenly stopped, and it was simultaneously horrifying and peaceful.

Collin’s initial idea brought these emotions to the table, and I just responded.  Musically speaking, he came in with that riff that you hear in the post-choruses, and all I did was take a nugget and put my own rhythmic flavor on it.  You can extract so much if you limit yourself… I highly recommend checking out Bernard Hermann film scores for a masterclass in this concept.

GTH has a bit of an anthemic, Zeppelin-esque vibe. Who are some of your bass heroes? Are you a big John Paul Jones fan?

Hell yeah!  John Paul Jones is one of the godfathers of rock bass, and his musicianship helped fill out those Zeppelin records with all the other instruments as well.  Like I mentioned earlier, Collin and I connected on “Ramble On.”

I’m one of the fortunate minority who studied bass for four years with one of his heroes, Robert Hurst.  His credentials are too numerous to list here, but you might know him from playing with Branford Marsalis, including in the Tonight Show band in the 90s and on films like Spike Lee’s “Do the Right Thing”.  He’s the one who taught me “if you put rhythm first, everything else will follow.”

Another bass hero is Tim Lefebvre.  When I was visiting NYC in 2005, I believe it was my classmate Theo Katzman who hipped us Michigan kids to the 55 Bar, where I got my socks blown off by Wayne Krantz, Lefebvre, and Keith Carlock.  This musical moment inspired me to want to move to NYC, which I did nine years later.  Tim and I connected during this pandemic and I got to relay that story to him.  His groove is immaculate, and his sonic palette is unmatched in the bass community.  

In terms of recordings, the big heroes for me are Tim Commerford, for his tone and attitude; James Jamerson for his fearless improvisation over “pop” tunes; Flea who inspired me to get my first Musicman Stingray; Tina Weymouth for her foundational playing in Talking Heads; and Charlie Haden for his incredible lyricism in the low register of the bass.  Plus, society needs another “Liberation Music Orchestra.”

I could talk about bass players all day and I feel guilty for leaving out about 500 more who I love dearly.

Which fuzz pedal are you using on it? It sounds mean as hell!

You may be surprised, but no fuzz pedals were used in the making of this tone…

When Collin and I were writing and coming up with ideas in the studio, I was just plugged straight into an Apollo 8 interface, and I used the Marshall JCM8 plugin for ridiculous distortion.

However, that’s not what you’re hearing on the record.

During the pandemic, Collin was living in Miami and making connections down there. We recorded at Bull Productions Recording Studio with the engineer Ryan Haft.

I tracked the bass with the in-house Gibson Grabber, recording live along with the drummer Cristian Acevedo.  I had to fight that bass, but I love struggling with tough instruments.  Ryan heard my demo tone, so to achieve big heavy nastiness, he set up an old Ampeg SVT tube head on an 8×10 cabinet.  Then he CRANKED the drive.

That’s the tone. Unfortunately, I’ve never heard a pedal that can quite replicate the sound of a big bass amp breaking up in a room.   I’m sure readers are familiar with Tim Commerford’s live rig of three SVTs and three 8×10 cabinets.  He’s got one for “clean”, one for “medium” and one for “heavy.” It’s not for show, those things move some fucking air in the best way.

When will we be seeing you perform with Collin? Are there any tour plans on the table?

Our main focus has been on writing and recording, and there’s more coming down the pike.  We’ll start hitting the local scene before going out on a tour, and I so very eagerly look forward to performing live again.  That human connection is so important, and humans have been making music together since the dawn of time.    

Finally, if you had your own signature bass, which features would it have, what would the finish be, and how many strings would it have?

I’m a less-is-more type of player, so my signature bass would have one pickup like the Jack Casady or Music Man Stingray, and it would only have three strings, E, A, and D…and a tone knob.  Can’t forget that.  A volume knob, too.  I don’t really care about the finish cuz you can always cover it with stickers or refinish it.

Visit Collin Stanley online:
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Interview With By the Thousands Bassist Adam Sullivan



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

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



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

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Interview With Bassist Curly Hendo



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



Artist Update With Bassist Derek Frank

Bassist Derek Frank…

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

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

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

Photo, Stephen Bradley

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Interview With Bassist Graham Stanush



Interview With Bassist Graham Stanush

Bassist Graham Stanush…

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

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

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