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: Joe Bouchard
Bands & Artists: Blue Öyster Cult, X Brothers, Blue Coupe, Solo artist
Home: Killingworth, Connecticut
How have you been passing time during the lockdown?
At first I was freaking out about things like food shopping. I got food poisoning three times by eating old food. I quit coffee cold turkey. That was worse than the food poisoning! Everything has leveled off now. I wear pretty much a haz-mat suit when shopping. The people in my area are being very careful with masks and distancing. We’re adapting to the new normal. I’ve been doing virtual sessions and collaborations with friends, and I do an open mic on Zoom every week where I play solo acoustic guitar. It’s a good chance for me to try out new songs and arrangements, and work on my singing. And I released my sixth solo album, Strange Legends, which made the charts in Holland and is doing well—I sold out the first pressing.
What have you been working on in terms of your bass practice routine?
Having my schedule cleared allowed me to ample time to practice and learn new things on my instruments. I practice guitar more than bass, usually scales, arpeggios, jazz riffs, and blues licks. My bass practice mostly occurs when I’m recording bass parts for my songs or for other artists. I’ll work at length to polish the part until it has just the right vibe.
What music, songs, recordings, artists, bass players have you been listening to as a source of comfort and inspiration that you can recommend?
My latest passion has been been the trumpet. I played a little in high school and I joined the concert band at Ithaca College for one semester. I’ve got two cornets, a nice French trumpet, and a flugelhorn. I’ve been listening to Miles Davis and Chet Baker, and I have a YouTube playlist of over 600 songs that I play along with for hours at a time. My brother had me record two trumpet solos on his solo album, and I recorded several trumpet parts on my new album. I love playing the melodies of the great standards from the ’20s, ’30s, ’40s, and ’50s. I was reading a book on the sociology of music and one of the statements in that book was “if you play a melody the way it should be played, you own that melody. It becomes a part of you.”
What bass gear have you been playing and trying out?
I have six basses in my collection. For my last four solo albums I recorded all of the bass parts using my MusicMan Stingray bass, which I call the “Burnin’ for You” bass because it was used on that song. It’s an awesome instrument. The other five basses are good but the Music Man delivers with no fuss. I record through a direct box into my computer. When mixing, I’ll do a deep dive into bass plug-ins to find the perfect sound for the song. I’m thinking of getting a short-scale Mike Watt Reverend bass for fun; it’s on my wish list.
What non-music activities, books, shows, movies, or workout recommendations do you have?
I love reading music biographies. I spend hours learning software for my computer via the endless YouTube tutorials. I use Logic Pro X for my albums and I use Final Cut Pro for video editing. I have over 400 videos on my YouTube channel [www.youtube.com/user/hotastro]. I go for walks in the local park with my girlfriend. We do about two-and-a-half miles, and it gets me out of the house three or four days a week. I’m not that fond of TV but we do binge watch on cable occasionally. There’s way too much to watch, and when you get obsessed with something like Breaking Bad or Better Call Saul, or Schitt’s Creek, you’re hooked.
What projects do you have coming up when the world gets going again?
I’m planning to do another solo album in the new year. My brother and I, with the help of our manager, Jeff Keller, founded a new label called RockHeart Records. Even in the midst of a pandemic and worldwide economic collapse we were able to secure a record deal with Deko/ADA/ Warner Music Group. We’ll be releasing a live, quarantine-style album in 2021. We already have half of it recorded and the video is edited.
What advice can you offer fellow bassists for staying positive and keeping morale high?
It can be very troubling to have your live gig schedule and income yanked out from under you. Take the time while home to learn recording software, take lessons on YouTube, expand your repertoire, and write songs. Gigs will come back. Be patient, but not complacent.
Read all 180+ Bass Magazine Check-in Features: Here
All check-ins compiled and edited by Jon D'Auria & Chris Jisi