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: Nathan Peck
Bands & Artists: Alex Skolnick Trio, Maynard Ferguson, Gideon King & City Blog, Nathan Peck & the Funky Electrical Unit
Home: Mineola, New York
How have you been passing time during the lockdown?
I’ve been branching out into guitar and electronic and acoustic drums in an effort to keep my music alive. In my home studio I’ve been making tracks in Logic X and creating various orchestrations for licensing and future releases. I’m mixing a jazz record I made in 2019 with a handful of New York City musicians. My wife and I have been playing and writing songs. On Dec. 19 we released a humorous and musically uplifting Christmas song for adults called “What If Santa?”—which can be interpreted as the thoughts of a drunk Santa on Christmas Eve. Listen to “What If Santa?” HERE.
What have you been working on in terms of your bass practice routine?
I’ve been playing my Sadowsky NYC 5-string, with a high C string. It’s been very inspiring writing melodies on it. I do a lot of multi-tracking with that bass and my Strat. To keep my chops up on my 103-year-old Pfretzschner upright bass, I’ve been playing along with Charlie Parker and Fats Waller records, especially the uptempo tunes. The iReal Book app comes in handy, too. Aside from bass, I’ve been working on my songwriting and lyrics, trying to write some pop tunes on guitar and keyboard. Playing a chordal instrument is very important.
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 pursuing jazz most of my career but I’m also influenced by the music of my generation, which is the ’80s and ’90s. I didn’t always have time to dig deeply into those bands and artists, but one my wife and I recently revisited is the Dave Matthews Band. They have a huge catalog of albums and songs, many of which can be missed because they don’t get any AirPlay. Their last three records are terrific and their live shows are incredible. Besides their great longtime rhythm section of Stefan Lessard and drummer Carter Beauford, they have evolved, with the killer organist Buddy Strong and an ace horn section with Jeff Coffin and Rashawn Ross. They step into so many different grooves and pockets, which run the gamut from hard rock, African 12/8, and sensitive guitar ballads to bluegrass, funk, and mixed meter formats. And Dave Matthews is a machine of a rhythm guitar player. You cannot mess with his time!
What bass gear have you been playing and trying out?
I’ve been a huge fan of Aguilar gear, and I was lucky enough to land an endorsement with them in 2011, after playing the D’Addario party at SXSW with the Alex Skolnick Trio. I have two Tone Hammer heads and two SL 112 cabinets, and I also want to get the new AG 700 head; the sound is different, a little more silky and modern sounding. I love their pickups and pedals, too. For fun one day I set up my Aguilar rig in my living room to do some impromptu bass flexing, and I somehow came around to the idea of running it as a powered sub for my home theater system. Talk about an amazing sub system that blows away any commercial home theater sub! Bass-wise, besides my Sadowsky NYC 5-string, I’ve been playing my Godin A5 fretless, which sounds massive; I used it on my Christmas track. I also did a bass-build project: In the spring I acquired an early-’90s Fender Japan JB-40 Jazz Bass from a friend. It has a nice dark rosewood fingerboard and mint green pickguard on a Flamingo Pink body. I had a custom stack-knob control plate made to Leo Fender‘s original design specs, and I added a Quan Badass II bridge and some new pickups. It sounds amazing and screams retro custom mod. Sometimes I swap out the pickguard for a tortoise guard, when I play “Jazz Bass dress-up day.”
What non-music activities, books, shows, movies, or workout recommendations do you have?
Over the summer I grew a garden and finished a slate patio I started a year ago. I spend a lot of days outside watering tomatoes at 6am and 6pm. They yielded about 130 tomatoes from 10 plants. We also grew three different kinds of basil, oregano, and cilantro. To stay fit I’ve been doing 40-70 pushups a day, hitting the NordicTrack Skier machine as much as possible, and doing yoga. And lastly, breathing. Take long breaths!
What projects do you have coming up when the world gets going again?
I hope to start gigging with my band, the Funky Electrical Unit. We were in regular rotation at the 55 Bar, and I can’t wait to hit there again. My main sideman gig is with the the Alex Skolnick Trio. We have a blues record coming out in 2021 that we recorded in January 2019 at Spin Studios in Long Island City, Queens. Alex has significantly altered his normal musical persona and has become quite a Zappa-blues singer, with a legit guitar sound and playing to back it up. The record is tight! I also look forward to being able to play some gigs with Peck Fam Jazz, our family band, with my dad on piano, my mom on vocals, and my brother on drums. I learned how to play bass watching my father’s left hand on piano. We gigged regularly through my high school years and since then, whenever we can. It will be great to finally get back together.
Nathan Peck & the Funky Electrical Unit at 55 Bar:
What advice can you offer fellow bassists for staying positive and keeping morale high?
My advice for staying positive is try to make yourself laugh. If you’re feeling down get silly and laugh at stupid stuff. Watch Space Balls, Weird Al Yankovic’s UHF, and the British TV show, Spitting Image. To that end, I highly recommend two movies: Groove Tube, from 1974, a spoof on everything that existed in American life, and the idea that television has ruined our minds. And Romance with a Double Bass, a hilarious 1975 British comedy with John Cleese as a bassist playing a ball for a beautiful princess, based on an Anton Chekov short story. I also recommend recording yourself every day and listening back. You will gain perspective on your feel, time, and tone, and you will improve on a daily basis. Always hit record!
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All check-ins compiled and edited by Jon D'Auria & Chris Jisi