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.
Bassist: Divinity Roxx
Bands & Artists: Victor Wooten, Beyoncé, Fantasia, Solo artist
Home: West New York, New Jersey
How have you been passing time during the lockdown?
I’ve been spending a lot of time studying and turning in assignments for my Berklee online classes. I’m currently pursuing my bachelor’s degree, I have about one more year to go. I had started making some YouTube bass videos and focusing on my “Wake ’n’ Bass” series, where I record myself playing bass pretty soon after getting out of bed [Here], but I fractured my wrist and elbow six weeks ago in a biking accident, so that’s not going down as often. I’ve been hanging out with my wife, the awesome actress Yani Martin, making silly videos.
We celebrated our first wedding anniversary a couple of weeks ago. I started a Humpday IG Live weekly talk show where I either perform or talk with some of my musician friends, like Ebonie Smith, who is the head engineer at Atlantic Records, drummer Queen Cora Coleman, and bassist Alissia Benveniste. I released a single with my former Beyoncé bandmates, Nikki Glaspie, Kat Rodriguez, Marci Chapa, and Tia Fuller, with Kat Dyson on guitar [Here]. And I played bass on the Muzology song “All Over the Map."
What have you been working on in terms of your bass practice routine?
I was practicing a lot before I fractured my wrist and elbow. My friend and fellow low-ender, Gillian Harwin, challenged me to learn Chick Corea’s “Nite Sprite” and I love Anthony Jackson, so I was working on that for a bit. I was mainly working on my left hand technique, trying to get faster and cleaner, and breaking some bad habits. I’ve started playing a little bit again and let’s just say it’s going to be a while before I can play [Victor Wooten’s] “You Can’t Hold No Groove” again! I recently turned a bass stem over to Ray Chew for this Apollo virtual concert. [edit. note: a stem is an audio file that contains a track split into four musical elements, i.e. a drum stem, bass stem, harmony stem, and vocal stem].
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 Bob Marley and the Wailers. He always brings me comfort in times of stress, and this has been a stressful time. I’ve also been listening to Stevie Wonder, Bobby Hutchinson, Leonie Pernet, Ron Carter’s album, Patrão, Anderson Paak’s Ventura (Instrumentals) album, and DJ Kemit, every time I get that notification that he’s on Twitch. When I’m studying and reading, I can only listen to atmospheric music, like Binaural Beats and 528Hz. Otherwise I get caught up in analyzing whatever music is playing and the next thing you know I’m grabbing my bass and working on a new beat.
What bass gear have you been playing and trying out?
I’ve been recording through my Aguilar Tone Hammer 700 head. Bass-wise, I’ve been playing my Warwick Streamer LX, my Fender Marcus Miller Jazz Bass V—which is my main bass with Fantasia—and a new Fender Ultimate Jazz Bass that I’ve been breaking in. I’ve been playing around with my Moog DFAM and Mother-32, and with software like OBS, which I use to stream my IG live vids.
What non-music activities books, shows, movies, or workout recommendations do you have?
I’ve been watching movies and TV shows like Portrait of a Lady on Fire, Sergio, Insecure, Little Fires Everywhere, and Mrs. America. I’ve been reading James Baldwin’s Letter to Angela Davis, which is breathtaking, Four Agreements, by Don Miguel Ruiz, and In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens, by Alice Walker. And I like riding my bike across the George Washington Bridge, dropping down into New York City, and coming back to New Jersey.
What projects do you have coming up when the world gets going again?
I’ll be doing rescheduled tour dates with Fantasia. I’m writing a childen’s album and a couple of children’s books. I’m working on a one woman-esque show and album called Divinity Roxx Presents the Ballad of Debbie Walker. It’s the origin story of the superhero, Divinity Roxx. It continues to evolve into all kinds of things. I recorded some songs for the project with my band at Zoo Labs last year. I’m excited about the music but I’m taking my time releasing it. Everybody and they’re mama is going to be releasing an album next year so I’mma hang back and watch. I sent a couple of tracks out to some collaborators; I can’t wait to see what they come back with.
What advice can you offer fellow bassists for staying positive and keeping morale high?
Be easy with yourself. This sucks for everybody. One thing is for sure, if you come out of this the same as when you went in, you’ve missed out on a huge opportunity to grow and become the version of your self you imagine you can be. There’s still time. The playing field is level for awhile. We were shown in no uncertain terms who, and more importantly, what is important and essential to our survival. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Go outside. Get some air in your lungs. Move your body. Stimulate your mind. Of course, practice, get better, but work on being a better human being because being a better bass player won’t necessarily make you a better person.
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All check-ins compiled and edited by Jon D'Auria & Chris Jisi