You’d be hard pressed to find a bass player busier or more in demand than Chris Chaney. The A-list studio player and Jane’s Addiction bassist always has his hands full with some of the most coveted gigs in the world. Just recently, he launched his band NHC alongside guitarist Dave Navarro and drummer Taylor Hawkins; he performed on SNL and various televised appearances with Miley Cyrus; he provided the low end for new music from Elton John, Ozzy Osbourne, Joe Satriani, and many others; and now he’s off to join Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder’s new supergroup for a U.S. tour. And that’s just his past 12 months. We don’t even have the space here to get into the movie and television scoring gigs he holds down on a weekly basis.
But this is nothing new to Chaney. His career started when he was recruited by a then-unknown artist named Alanis Morissette as she released her now-iconic 1995 album Jagged Little Pill, and his phone hasn’t stopped ringing since. From there, he’s worked with artists across all genres including Celine Dion, Slash, Cher, Shakira, Rob Zombie, Bryan Adams, Josh Groban, Meatloaf, Carly Simon, Glen Campbell, and Joe Cocker. With all of this unreal experience on the road and in the studio, you’d figure he’d have some wild experiences and invaluable wisdom to share, and you’d be right. That’s why we checked in with him during a rare moment of pause at his Los Angeles home to answer our 10 Questions.
1. What music have you been listening to lately?
I’m doing a charity concert for a Music Cares-sponsored event called Above Ground, and I’m learning Lou Reed’s Transformer record in its entirety. Session aces Herbie Flowers and Klaus Voormann played all of the electric and acoustic bass on it.
2. What’s something readers would be surprised that you listen to?
I’m a huge Bee Gees fan, and I’ve watched their new documentary five times. Maurice Gibb wrote the most perfectly crafted bass parts, and Barry Gibb is one of the greatest songwriters ever. I’ve been a fan my whole life and cannot get enough of their record Main Course . It’s a perfect record in every way.
3. What’s one element of your playing that you most want to improve?
My right-hand picking. I didn’t start off as a pick bass player; that came much later for me. It’s something I’ve had to work on quite a bit. I put on the metronome very slowly and play up and down strokes as smoothly and accurately as possible, up and down the neck using scales, while gradually increasing the metronome tempo in increments of two BPM. I’ve been practicing using the Pomodoro technique, where you set a timer for 25 minutes and work on whatever exercises you’re into, then take a five minute break. During those five minutes I grab some water, do some light stretching, and kind of recalibrate before the next round. Repeat as many times as you want.
4. What was the first concert you ever attended?
I saw many small-venue shows before my first actual big-arena concert, which was at the Cow Palace in San Francisco. It was Judas Priest’s Screaming For Vengeance tour.
5. What’s the best concert you’ve ever attended?
Roger Waters on his Dark Side of the Moon tour, at the Hollywood Bowl in 2006. I never got to see him with Pink Floyd back in the day, so this was the ultimate treat, and boy did he deliver. What a band!
6. If you could have lunch with any bass player today, alive or dead, who would it be?
Paul McCartney would be my dream lunch. Nobody played for the song quite like him, and plus, he’s a Beatle. He has the best tone, time, and feel, and he always seems to play the right stuff. I’ve watched the Get Back documentary and was just dumbstruck by what an incredible songwriter and musician he is. Not that I didn’t know that before. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend doing so. The footage is pure gold!
7. If you could sub for a bass player in any band, who would it be?
Tony Levin! I’m a huge Peter Gabriel fan and absolutely blown away by everything Tony plays.
8. What was your first bass?
In 1982 I rented an Arbor P-style bass from a music store called The Magic Flute.
9. What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given about playing bass?
Practice slowly. If you can’t play something right slowly, then you definitely can’t play it right fast.
10. What’s the most embarrassing thing that has happened to you during a performance?
Getting handed a bass that was tuned down a half-step when the guitars were in standard tuning. The first note was a doozy, and the rest of the song was the most stress I’ve ever felt live, just trying to recalibrate and play the right notes. I don’t recommend that scenario to anyone!
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