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: Gary Shea
Bands & Artists: Alcatrazz, New England, Rock Island Orchestra
Home: Amelia City, Florida
How have you been passing time during the lockdown?
I moved just before the lockdown started, so I’ve had time to arrange and set everything back up in a new locale. We recently finished the new Alcatrazz album, Born Innocent, which was released July 31st. We would be in Belgium as I write this, with a world tour that was set to start in Europe in September. Like everyone else, we’ve moved it all to 2021. I’ve had a chance to read more and I’ve enjoyed the summer, hoping for the best with the virus.
What have you been working on in terms of your bass practice routine?
I’ve been working on walking bass lines, as they are essential for any style of music. There’s always so much to learn in connecting the notes we play on bass. When the bass walks it’s like a swinging stoll down the street bringing the whole neighborhood with it. Switching between my 4- and 5-string P-Basses is something I practice to remain fluid at changing over between the two. I still prefer four stings to five. Also, I keep going over our live set of 40 songs, so it all stays fresh.
What music, songs, recordings, artists, bass players have you been listening to as a source of comfort and inspiration that you can recommend?
I’ve been listening to a lot of flamenco music. I’ve always dug The Gypsy Kings, Luis Villegas, and newer players like Johannes Linstead. In the morning I listen to chamber music for its peacefulness and dexterity. When I’m driving it’s a mix of instrumental piano and American Songbook tunes from various artists. I’ve been listening to a lot of Bobby Darin lately.
Alcatrazz: “Born Innocent”
What bass gear have you been playing and trying out?
I recently purchased a sunburst 60th Anniversary Fender Precision and I used it on the last New England concerts. It sounded great. I started out one as my first bass, but when I began playing my Fender Jazz Bass years ago I never went back. I thought it was time to return to the roots. Recently I bought a Hadean version of a Kala U-Bass. It’s got a piezo pickup and a great upright sound. I put a set of U-Bass roundwounds on it, as I don’t like the sticky strings they come with. It’s great for traveling and playing while walking around the house.
What non-music activities, books, shows, movies, or workout recommendations do you have?
I ride a hybrid bicycle about 12 miles every morning with my music playlist on shuffle. I’ve had the bike a little more than a year and I’ve put 3,000 miles on it. I had to buy new tires last month. It’s one of the reasons I moved to Florida, where every morning is nice weather. I like to read history. I’m currently reading The Spanish Civil War, by Helen Graham and Modern Ethics In 77 Arguments, by Peter Catapano and Simon Critchley.
What projects do you have coming up when the world gets going again?
We’ve begun writing for a new Alcatrazz album that hopefully will be ready to go by the time we can begin touring again. Also, keyboardist Jimmy Waldo and I are planning on doing another Rock Island Orchestra album with our friends Tommy Fields on vocals and D. Kendall Jones on guitar. Our EP, Revolution, did very well.
What advice can you offer fellow bassists for staying positive and keeping morale high?
The thing to think about is that although we have limited travels and limitations, we are not in a war zone where things are horrible. Be very thankful about that. Every morning when you pick up your bass, even for a moment, your morale should swell and your heart should beat a tad faster knowing that you are a bass player and have the ability to make music. When I see my basses in the morning I smile and I believe they smile back, a perfect audience! We all need to hang in there and know that all of this extra practicing will make for better performances down the road. It’s not where you have been but how you have used the time.
Follow Gary: Here
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All check-ins compiled and edited by Jon D'Auria & Chris Jisi