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: Greg Ross
Bands & Artists: Epic Tantrum
Home: Syracuse, New York
How have you been passing time during the lockdown?
I started off lockdown with a plan to be super productive. I made lists, had goals, even created timelines. That lasted two weeks. Which was much longer than I expected. Apparently, I’ve found a knack for having very long phone calls that seem very important until I hang up and forget everything we discussed. I have been trying to exercise. Not shockingly, that lasted less than a week.
What have you been working on in terms of your bass practice routine?
We are working on a new album, so I’ve been focused on trying to write and learn new material. As one of those controversial bassist’s who plays with a pick, I constantly work on playing with my fingers. But then as soon as practice starts I go back to the pick. On a semiserious note, I’m usually so focused on our material that I rarely play other people’s songs. I made a plan to try and learn a new song a week from other artists. It’s amazing how much you can learn this way. It’s one of those simple goals that is hugely satisfying and fun.
What music, songs, recordings, artists, bass players have you been listening to as a source of comfort and inspiration that you can recommend?
I tend to go back to the same ones all the time. I’m a massive fan of the Manic Street Preachers, so I always have them on. They’re a constant source of inspiration for me. Squeeze is my happy place band, so that would be where I go for comfort. When I hear their music I just smile in some strange Pavlovian response. I’ve also been enjoying some newer discoveries, like Haken. I’ve been going back and trying to explore artists I feel I don’t know enough about. I’m on a Paul Weller deep dive at the moment—The Jam, Style Council, solo career, all of it! Spotify has been amazing for me. I constantly hear new music I love. I went on a two-week power pop bender. If you haven’t checked out Tsar or Jellyfish you must. All of this probably sounds weird for someone in an eclectic, prog-esque band like Epic Tantrum. Peter, our singer and guitarist, is on a big Frank Zappa kick at the moment. He keeps pushing me to go back and give Frank another try. I fear that is in my future.
Epic Tantrum “Letting Go”:
What bass gear have you been playing and trying out?
I love pedals. The rest of the guys in Epic Tantrum groan whenever I show up to rehearsal with a new pedal because they know the entire practice will revolve around me loving and hating the new pedal. My mood will change based not on how well we play a song, but simply based on how well I feel the new pedal sounds every time I use it! I recently picked up an Electro Harmonix Pog 2 and a Mel9 synth pedal. I’ve successfully incorporated the Mel9 into our current set. I’m still struggling to find a home for the Pog2. I also have a love for short-scale basses; I’m always on the lookout for a new, better short-scale that will change my life. I have a Reverend Wattplower that I love. I just ordered a new short-scale, so I already feel like I’m cheating on the Wattplower!
What non-music activities, books, shows, movies, or workout recommendations do you have?
Letterkenney on Hulu. You must watch Letterkenny! It’s—allegedly—the funniest series I have watched in years. I’m told I watch too much anime. I don't know if that’s possible. I won’t list the shows I’ve been watching because it would destroy Epic Tantrum’s carefully cultivated image. What is this workout thing you refer to?
What projects do you have coming up when the world gets going again?
Our new album, which is also our debut, is called Abandoned In the Strangers Room. It’s a double CD set. Disc one is all studio recordings. Disc two is all live recordings. We felt like the band was so different live, and we wanted people to see both sides of the band, hence the double CD. I feel like it was pretty audacious for a new band to release a double CD. It’s an eclectic mix of music; some call it prog, some call it alternative, some say metal, some hear the jazz influences. The album was released in January of 2020. Here’s my advice to bands: Don’t release your album right before a global pandemic hits. On the other hand, our album cover features a man in a mask, so we feel like we are truly fashion trendsetters now. It’s been getting lots of great reviews, which is cool. But the one that made us happiest said, “The message is clear: chill out, tackle life’s obstacles with a calm head, don’t be afraid to rage.” We don't know what that means exactly, and it doesn't really represent what we think we sound like. But it’s our favorite review nonetheless. We had planned on touring this past summer but that obviously didn’t happen. So we are writing new songs and hope to release at least one EP before the end of the year. Our goal is to release music when we think it’s ready, in batches of two or three songs. We don’t want to wait years to release new music, and with all the new technology and streaming services we don’t have to.
What advice can you offer fellow bassists for staying positive and keeping morale high?
Hmmm, I don’t know if I am the right person to ask that question to. How's this? No matter what anyone else says, science has proven that the bassist is the most important member of the band. Never forget that and always remind the other people in your band. They will appreciate the reminder—allegedly.
For more on Greg: Click Here
Read all 180+ Bass Magazine Check-in Features: Here
All check-ins compiled and edited by Jon D'Auria & Chris Jisi