As the world continues to recover from the Coronavirus, we're all finding ourselves in unfamiliar territory given the subsequent lockdown that is keeping us off of stages and confined to our homes. Luckily, there's comfort in the fact that we're all in this together, and that there are still many outlets for us musicians to keep us active and sane throughout this quarantine. We're checking in with bass players from all over the world to see what they're doing to stay entertained, healthy, productive, and safe during this trying time.
Bass Player: Barry Sparks
Bands & Artists: Yngwie Malmsteen, Michael Schenker Group, UFO, Ted Nugent, Dokken, B’z
How have you been passing time during the lockdown?
I’ve been very fortunate to have remained busy recording several albums during the pandemic. I recently finished the upcoming Michael Schenker Group record, Immortal, and Quiet Riot vocalist James Durbin’s upcoming album, Durbination. I had fun playing on the new American Tears record, Free Angel Express. [Bandleader] Mark Mangold is an awesome keyboardist and vocalist whose playing and Moog sounds take me back to Rick Wakeman, Keith Emerson, and Tony Banks. Currently, I’m recording the new Leatherwolf album. It sounds great; some real heavy stuff along with some progressive metal elements.
What have you been working on in terms of your bass practice routine?
I have a set of excercises, licks, and scales that I’ve been playing for years. Often the best practice method for me is to put on some vinyl—I’m a serious record collector—and sit and play along, to keep my ear and my fingers in shape.
What music, songs, recordings, artists, bass players have you been listening to as a source of comfort and inspiration that you can recommend?
I must admit I’m very old school. My biggest bass heroes are who I call “The Greats”—guys like Geddy Lee, John Entwistle, Chris Squire, Jack Bruce, Steve Harris, and John Paul Jones. They all still inspire me. I like to hear about new players as well, it’s just that my heart and soul belongs to the legends!
What bass gear have you been playing and trying out?
I play my ESP signature basses almost all of the time; they’re amazing and they’re my voice. Ocassionally I use my “Geddy” Fender Jazz basses or my Rickenbacker 4003. I have a prototype bass overdrive I designed with a Japanese company called TDC. The pedal works perfect for me. I can blend in precisely as much distortion and overdrive as I need. It works especially great in a live setting, through my Ampeg SVT Classic rig. I’ve been using S.I.T. strings for over 25 years; they’re a great company and they make awesome sounding bass strings. In my home studio, I’ve been producing and mastering a few up-and-coming artists. I’m a guitarist, as well, so I often end up playing guitar and bass on the projects. I’ve been recording on Steinberg Nuendo for a long time, though I’m constantly experimenting with new programs. I like Komplete Kontrol from Native Instruments. It has great violin and grand piano sounds.
What non-music activities, books, shows, movies, or workout recommendations do you have?
I enjoy taking my wife and kids to lakes and exploring the mountains and forests near where we live. Hiking and biking is big for us, as well. We love travelling and we document a lot of it on our YouTube channel, This Is How We Rock. For viewing, I’m not that into the new “Hollywood Agenda” movies. I’ll take old classic movies everytime. We also like to watch home design and building shows.
What projects do you have coming up when the world gets going again?
In addition to the upcoming albums I mentioned previously, I’ve been writing and recording with my old friend, the great vocalist Paul Sabu. And my new bass shred Christmas song and music video, featuring my five kids—Serena, Dennis, Eric, Leonardo and Arianna—is almost finished. I’m just waiting for the snow!
What advice can you offer fellow bassists for staying positive and keeping morale high?
I always say to be a musician you have to do it solely for the love and enjoyment of it. After all of these years I still enjoy playing as much as ever. Practice everyday to keep in shape. Also listen to your favorite bass players and try to emulate them. That’s not the same thing as stealing their licks, but after awhile you will develop your own style, which may be a blend of many of your favorite bass players. These days it’s tougher than ever to be a musician and keep your morale high, but if you do it for your own enjoyment, playing bass will alway keep you positive!
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All check-ins compiled and edited by Jon D'Auria & Chris Jisi