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: Dave Swift
Bands & Artists: Jools Holland, Later… with Jools Holland
Home: London, England
How have you been passing time during the lockdown?
My wife and I have our hands full with our son Oscar, who just turned three. It’s nice to be able to spend quality time with them both, and now I get to hear the most beautiful sound in the world every day: my son’s giggles and laughter. I’ve been managing to practice trombone, which was my first instrument. Occasionally I’ll play it on Jools’ radio or TV shows, when the guest artist has a bass player. I’ve also taken up guitar and I’m trying to improve my lackluster keyboard skills!
What have you been working on in terms of your bass practice routine?
I’ve mainly been playing the other instruments I mentioned, but that has helped my bass playing immensely. The trombone helps with melodic playing and intonation on my double bass and fretless, and the guitar and piano are great for understanding harmony on a deeper level. On the bass side, I’ve done thousands of bass line transcriptions for the artists I’ve had to back on Jools’ shows over the years, which I typically played once before moving on to the next show. I’ve started digging those out and playing along with the original recordings, to study the finer details and nuances of the parts.
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 listening to as much positive, uplifting, inspiring music as possible. Some of my favorites include Chaka Khan—with my favorite bassist, Anthony Jackson, Al Jarreau, Joni Mitchell, Stevie Wonder, Weather Report, Earth, Wind & Fire, Goldfrapp, k.d. lang, Charlie Haden’s American Dreams, Ennio Morricone’s soundtrack to Cinema Paradiso, Debussy, Isao Tomita, and Edward Elgar.
What bass gear have you been playing and trying out?
I switched to Bergantino amps, so I’ve been enjoying my Forte HP head and HG412 cabinet on gigs, and my BIAmp HDN210 and HDN112 cabinets at home. Among the BIAmp’s many features is a USB port which allows software upgrades/profiles, footswitch connectivity, and charging, so it’s constantly evolving. Jim Bergantino is an absolute genius, and his amplification has been a game changer for me. I’m an Ibanez artist, and I received my custom BTB 6-string last December. It has Nordstrand Big Splits pickups and Dunlop Nickel Super Bright strings, and there are some other changes we’re considering, as I work towards a signature model. I also got an Ibanez EHB1506MS 6-string Headless Multi-Scale Bass, which is quite superb! The amazing folks at Ibanez are constantly attempting to push the envelope with bass design and construction.
What non-music activities books, shows, movies or workout recommendations do you have?
I’ve been a lifelong fan of horror, monster, sci-fi and fantasy films and TV. One of my best friends is Sara Karloff, daughter of legendary horror actor Boris Karloff. I particularly like the original Universal Studios monster movies as well as the original Planet of the Apes films and TV series, so I’m re-watching all of those on DVD, for some escapism. For current shows, we’re enjoying Killing Eve, You, and Flack. Enlightening books I’ve read include Bounce: The Myth of Talent and the Power of Practice, by Matthew Syed, and Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, by Carol S. Dweck.
What projects do you have coming up when the world gets going again?
Hopefully our touring, and TV and radio shows with Jools will resume soon. I’ve also been backing up my wife, jazz singer Lucy Merrilyn [www.lucymerrilyn.com], on acoustic bass. We recorded her debut EP, Sometimes I’m Happy, last year, and we perform regularly in various Jazz venues in London. One of the reasons I’ve been developing my jazz guitar skills is so Lucy and I can do some duo gigs, especially if venues end up hiring less musicians or want smaller lineups.
What advice can you offer fellow bassists for staying positive and keeping morale high?
There’s a Japanese word, Tsundoku, which the art of buying books and never reading them. We all have countless books, magaines, DVDs, CDs, and LPs on our shelves, many relating to music and our instrument. Now is the time to dust them off and dig in, to improve as musicians and as people! Eat healthy, wholesome foods, exercise and get plenty of sleep. Healthy body, healthy mind!
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All check-ins compiled and edited by Jon D'Auria and Chris Jisi