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: Kasim Sulton
Bands & Artists: Todd Rundgren, Joan Jett, Meat Loaf, The New Cars, Blue Oyster Cult
Home: New York City
How have you been passing time during the lockdown?
It’s been a challenge. Luckily I have a few projects that have kept me busy. I’ve been putting the finishing touches on a new solo record. Chances are I won't release it until early next year so we keep adding songs, which is a good thing because it means I’m always working on new music. I also have a terrestrial radio show that needs to be put together each week. Doing features, voice-overs, and discovering new artists to share with the audience takes a good deal of focus, so I haven't had a whole lot of downtime. There always seems to be something to stay occupied with.
What have you been working on in terms of your bass practice routine?
Rather than sit down and play scales or try and devote two or three hours a day to practicing, I get requests from various friends and colleagues to contribute bass tracks to their projects. One of my recent favorites is an album being recorded by The Tubes drummer, Prairie Prince. It’s quite avant-garde. He sent me a track that was for the most part, spoken word and cymbals; my instruction was to “play whatever I felt.” I spent a couple of days creating a main bass track and then I came up with a three-part bass melody to go over top. It was an exercise that served two purposes. One, I got to “practice” a few hours a day and two, I got to use the all important creative portion of the brain that joins imagination and actual playing.
What music, songs, recordings, artists, bass players have you been listening to as a source of comfort and inspiration that you can recommend?
There’s a lot of great music being made today. Having the radio show I mentioned earlier helps me to discover all kinds of new artists and bands that might have otherwise gone unnoticed. People like Michael Franti, The Restless Age, and Devon Gilfillian. And I like Jason Isbells new record, Dreamsicle. With regard to bass players, I’ve been revisiting Jaco’s work, especially Word Of Mouth and Invitation. His approach to the instrument was completely cutting edge. The way he “pushed” the track along was groundbreaking, and I’m drawn to what made him make note and feel choices in any given piece of music. Of course, I could listen to McCartney, Chris Squire, John Paul Jones, or James Jamerson all day long, but it's truly all about expanding the musical horizons.
Kasim’s March set at Daryl’s House Club:
What bass gear have you been playing and trying out?
I’ve recently discovered a new amplifier: Blackstar, an amp company most known for guitar amplification, started making bass amps a few years ago, and during a Todd Rundgren tour I had the opportunity to play through one. Their Unity 500 Series is a great, small amp with a huge sound. It has some cool modeling features: Three voicings—classic, modern or flat—and three tube stages—linear, 6L6, or 6550. The EQ section is pretty smooth and it also has a few other bells and whistles that made me run out and get one for myself. It’s a nice, small 500-watt combo with two 10” speakers; great for medium size clubs and small theaters. I’ve been using one along with their Unity Active Extension cabinet, which has 250 watts and a 15” speaker, and I love it. Since I’m not on tour right now, I took the opportunity to have a few of my original Fender Precisions seen to. It’s important to keep them in “good health.” The ’64 P-Bass that I used on the Bat Out of Hell album, as well as the first Utopia tours I did, is my favorite. It needed a fret job and some electronic clean up. Had I been on tour I might not have gotten to it for another few years and, well, that’s not fair to the instrument.
What non-music activities, books, shows, movies, or workout recommendations do you have?
I spend a fair amount of time in the UK each year; mainly working with Phil Thornalley, songwriting. I'm a big BBC and ITV fan, and I can always find a show that piques my interest. One in particular I’ve been binge watching at home on Amazon Prime. If you like British humor, I highly recommend 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown. Also, there’s nothing better than a David Sedaris short story. A brilliant American humorist with a biting wit. As far as working out, I put in an hour of “worrying” every day.
What projects do you have coming up when the world gets going again?
The aforementioned solo record I’m finishing, and if this pandemic goes on much longer it’ll be a double album. I’m scheduled to go out on the road with Todd Rundgren early next year—fingers crossed. And I'll have to circle back and finish my Kasim Sulton’s Utopia tour at some point. I was in the middle of it when things shut down this past March.
What advice can you offer fellow bassists for staying positive and keeping morale high?
Create music! Make a video for Youtube, Tik Tok, Instagram, or Facebook of you playing your favorite song along with the record. Try learning a bass part that sounds unlearnable, like Rush's “YYZ.” Try playing an instrument that you didn’t think you could ever play! Write a song! Most importantly, stay positive. Don’t get complacent, it’s easy to procrastinate and put off till tomorrow what can be done today. Do it today, and for now, wear a mask.
For more on Kasim: Click Here
Read all 180+ Bass Magazine Check-in Features: Here
All check-ins compiled and edited by Jon D'Auria & Chris Jisi