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.
Bands & Artists: Ryan and Pony, Mark Mallman, The Melismatics, Hundred Flowers
Home: Saint Paul, Minnesota
How have you been passing time during the lockdown?
Aside from working as a chiropractic massage therapist—which I was allowed to do—I studied to be a sculpt yoga teacher to augment my knowledge of the body, and I taught classes on Zoom. Now I’m teaching in person. I also put a lot of focus on my child for her distance learning. For fun/escape I got sucked into watching Ozark; I can’t wait for the next season. I also studied some Renzo Gracie videos on Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. I was all over the map.
What have you been working on in terms of your bass practice routine?
In the last year I only practiced when I had to learn songs for a show. Some gigs are super easy, where I can just show up and there are charts—like church gigs. I play in a few different groups in town and I’m a multi-instrumentalist. Prior to the shutdown I had many gigs. So my bass practice routine fell to the wayside in some aspects. The break was kind of nice for me. Because it felt like I had a fresh pair of ears coming back to bass guitar. Usually if I want to grow on the bass or guitar, I learn songs I like or feel challenged by. I signed up for Scott’s Bass Lessons. I admit I wasn’t very disciplined when I was in it. I would sign up for that again and recommend it. I like to watch guitar teacher videos on YouTube. Another regimen I will implement is plugging my bass into Garageband and recording something. I feel I learn a lot from that. It exposes plenty, especially with feel and tempo.
What music, songs, recordings, artists, bass players have you been listening to as a source of comfort and inspiration that you can recommend?
I like funk and hip hop bass. I’m not great at it, but it helps me to come up with more interesting bass parts. I’ve been listening to indie dance music, like Chromeo, Cut Copy, and Phantom—mainly to put together workout playlists for my classes. I think the last song I learned on bass was “Atomic,” by Blondie, and a Rage Against the Machine song. I also re-fell in love with “Cosmic Dancer,” by T. Rex. I’ve been trying to listen to music that uplifts me. I love glam rock bass parts.
What bass gear have you been playing and trying out?
I’m a fan of Fender Jazz Basses. They’re tonally very clear and smooth. The neck shape and wood has a lot to do with it, I think. I love all of the Fender basses. I love my Sans Amp DI pedal. It has some punch, attack, and drive. You can also control it pretty well. I used to be a tube amp snob. Now I’m finding that solid state amps serve me very well. They’re simple to use and have less problems on tour.
What non-music activities books, shows, movies, or workout recommendations do you have?
I’m into Mixed Martial Arts; Jiu jitsu in particular. The last books I have read were about kinesiology and the bible—I am pretty sure that interests only me. In addition to loving Ozark, I also got a good thrill from the shows You and Stranger Things. My six-year-old will only let me watch the movies she watches. First and foremost spend time with family or people you love.
What projects do you have coming up when the world gets going again?
Hopefully touring with Ryan and Pony. I plan on writing more material and turning that into a discipline again. And hopefully more song placement stuff and Melismatics tunes, as well.
Watch the premiere of Ryan and Pony's "Low" here:
What advice can you offer fellow bassists for staying positive and keeping morale high?
Keep plugging away. Watch bass videos on whatever you get curious about. Learn and play songs that make you feel good. Playing another instrument, even if it’s plunking around on a cheap keyboard, is helpful to come up with creative bass parts. Get creative and come up with new ways to play with people. The lack of shows in music venues is just a season. In life there are seasons where we don’t get to play as much, especially the longer you keep at it. Remember the reason why you picked up an instrument in the first place and how it made you feel the first time you played alongside others or on your own. Try not to get jaded if things fall through.
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All check-ins compiled and edited by Jon D'Auria & Chris Jisi