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: Matt Harris
Bands & Artists: Mike Shinoda (Linkin Park), Jack Garratt, Carly Rae Jepson, Eliza Doolittle, Taio Cruz
Home: Los Angeles, California
How have you been passing time during the lockdown?
Mostly with hobbies! I build custom motorcycles in my spare time, so I’ve been going out to my garage, which is a real luxury I enjoy here in L.A. that I didn’t have back home in London. I’ve been rebuilding engines and welding frames. It’s been great to have something tangible to work on and I love working with my hands. I have this mindset where I can become completely engrossed in what I’m doing and the whole world sort of disappears during that process. I love it.
What have you been working on in terms of your bass practice routine?
These days when I play just for myself it’s all about feel and groove. When I was younger I used to focus my practice on technique. I had a real focus on “perfecting my playing technique,” which I think made sense back then as it’s useful for any developing player to practice technique. But there comes a time to let go of “perfection” because in the real world it’s not an especially helpful metric to judge things by. Feel and groove are what I care about, so I’ll play to some loops I create in Ableton and try to get a nice grove going. Or if I’m listening to something that gets my head nodding, I’ll pick up my bass and figure out what it is about that groove that hits me. I’ve also recently found myself playing around with modes a lot more than I used to.
What music, songs, recordings, artists, bass players have you been listening to as a source of comfort and inspiration that you can recommend?
Good question. Two of the artists I work for have just released new albums: Mike Shinoda’s Dropped Frames, and Jack Garratt’s Love Death and Dancing. Both Mike and Jack are people I’m fortunate enough to call my friends, but they also both inspire me creatively. Mike has taken this lockdown situation and turned it into a creative collaboration with the internet itself by taking genre mashup requests from twitch streams and then making instrumental tracks everyday—which I think is just an incredibly inventive way to react to the current state of the world. He’s an intuitively creative man through and through. Other than that, I’ve found a few new acts that I’ve been enjoying, in particular a British band turned solo artist by the name of Banfi. I think his take on left field pop is very cool and well-produced. There’s also a great band called Parcels; they’ve got a lot of groove based stuff that’s worth checking out for any bass player. Oh, and Vulfpeck; any bass player who hasn’t checked them out needs to do that immediately.
What bass gear have you been playing and trying out?
My trusty ’77 Fender Precision. I’ve had it for probably ten years now, and it’s been my main bass for most of that time. At the time I got it I had actually bought three different ’70s Precisions, and then I tried them all out, kept the one I thought had the best tone, and sold the other two. Since I’ve been over in the States from the UK, I haven’t had a ton of gear to play around with, but my P-Bass and my Tech 21 Sans Amp are my go-to setup for most situations. I’m drawn to the instrument’s simplicity; it’s been the bedrock of my bass sound for a long time now. We used that setup on Mike Shinoda’s Post Traumatic tour for my bass tone and it was great for a variety of his music—from his solo stuff, his rap side-project, Fort Minor, and even Linkin Park tracks.
What non-music activities, books, shows, movies, or workout recommendations do you have?
I should be working out more. I’m definitely carrying some lockdown weight. But cake is important. With regard to movies, I’ve probably re-watched Jurassic Park about five times since lockdown, as well as some classic ’80s and ’90s films, like City Slickers and Ghost. As for books, my girlfriend [Megan Allen] is a novelist and her publisher released her second novel, The Meat Hunter, right as the lockdown began and shipments of books were ceased. However, that gave me a chance to catch up and get it read before the general public could! So we’ve been laughing about the timing of it all. It’s a genuinely phenomenal read and she’s been winning awards, like the Maxy Awards “Book of the Year,” despite the shipping set backs, so I’m very proud of her for that... Wait, what was the question again?
What projects do you have coming up when the world gets going again?
Right now things are pretty quiet, as is the way of the world in 2020! I’m doing some work for a TV series that I can’t talk too much about, and I’m also doing remote Ableton programming work for some artists; helping them get their live shows ready for when things kick off again in the touring world. All of which is a lot of fun.
What advice can you offer fellow bassists for staying positive and keeping morale high?
I recommend, especially in the current lockdown, that we all let ourselves drown in the things that make us happy. For me, as I mentioned, I love working on my motorbikes and building things with my hands, so I’ve been spending a lot of time doing that. And then in the evenings my girlfriend and I enjoy a nice meal and stream movies or series. We’ve all got to be kind to ourselves right now. 2020 is a pretty weird year, and I honestly believe that self care is one of the most important lessons we can all learn from it. That, and caring better for our planet. But you have to find joy in the things you can control, and right now none of us can play live shows or get in a room with other people to make music, so I think it’s important to pursue other hobbies and interests that make us feel passion. Make your life and whatever situation you find yourself in as awesome as you can. That’s really the goal, isn’t it?
Read all 150+ Bass Magazine Check-in Features: Here
All check-ins compiled and edited by Jon D'Auria & Chris Jisi